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

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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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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).
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Fall of the Western Roman Empire, the last emperor Romulus Augustus surrenders to Odoacer, 476

For chapter III of Byzantine Alternate History, I then had a completely different approach as this was the first story to be written in collaboration with another Byzantine history fan, and this was Justinianus the Great (follow her on Instagram @justinianusthegreat) who I have known since the very first weeks of doing my Byzantine history Instagram, and not too long after we got to know each other, we already chatted a lot about Byzantine history to the point of doing a role playing wherein we travelled back in time and played different Byzantine era characters.

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Emperor Justinian I the Great of Byzantium (r. 527-565)

Although the 3rd chapter of the alternate history series was published on March 22, the conceptualizing process for it including the role-playing with Justinianus where we went back to the 6th century whereas she played the influential Byzantine emperor Justinian I the Great and I played other characters through Instagram chat started out back in January, though the role play chat itself went on for about 2 months! This character role playing through Instagram chat did in fact occur for so long that I was able to publish 3 articles being my review on the Theophano novel, chapter I and II of the series, and one video for my channel. However, the writing process for the 3rd chapter only began in mid-March after coming back from the same road trip wherein I finished chapter II while the role playing on Instagram chat was still ongoing as well, and luckily before writing chapter III, Dovahhatty released his own episode on Justinian the Great (Unbiased History: Byzantium II- Justinian the Great), which was indeed such a great help to writing the 3rd chapter as the story for the chapter which was about the influential Justinian the Great was to be a very complex one that so many books and videos have had their own take of it. In addition, other than Dovahhatty’s video on Justinian, the same channel Thersites the Historian was of great help in explaining the situation of the 6th century and so was the History of Byzantium Podcast by Robin Pierson, although Dovahhatty made the story plain and simple enough in order to put it all into one story as after all the reign of Justinian I (527-565) was not only long but very eventful.

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Emperor Justinian I of Byzantium and Shah Khosrow I of the Sassanid Empire, by Justinianus the Great

The role-playing chat with Justinianus meanwhile did serve as the basis for the fictional part of the story especially on Justinian’s life that history does not record, therefore we made up some parts of his life including his thoughts and personality for the story through the role-playing. As for the story of chapter III, a lot of the same locations, characters, and themes from chapter II still continued- although not the alternate history outcome- as the time jump between chapter II and chapter III was in fact very short, and true enough chapter III’s lead character Justinian I was born in 482 just 6 years after the Fall of the Western Roman Empire (476), while other characters in chapter III were in fact still alive back when the Western Roman Empire was existing. Due to the relatively short time jump from chapter II to III, some of the same characters from chapter II such Emperor Zeno and the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Great returned for the background part chapter III, as well as the Vandals, Ostrogoths, and Visigoths, although the one power that was mostly left out in the previous two chapters was the Sassanid Persian Empire in the east, and only in chapter III did they begin having a major role in the story, as true enough it was only in the 6th century when the Sassanids again began to be a bigger threat to the Romans as while Justinian I ruled Eastern Rome, the Sassanids had a ruler equally as ambitious as him which was Khosrow I.

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Emperor Justinian I and Empress Theodora at the imperial court

Another new feature chapter III had was that it was the first time in the series which from here on the word “Byzantine” would be used referring to the Eastern Romans, and this was due to the Western Roman Empire falling in 476, however the term may be incorrect as the Byzantines even after the fall of Western Rome in 476 never called themselves “Byzantine” but still continued calling themselves “Romans” and only in the 16th century after Byzantium fell was the term “Byzantine” only first used to refer to them. However, since the series was called “Byzantine Alternate History”, and also for the sake of not confusing viewers, I chose to stick to referring to the Eastern Romans from chapter III in the 6th century onwards as “Byzantines”. Now the big challenge for chapter III was to put all the spectacular events in Justinian I’s reign into one story, thus chapter III would then become the longest so far that I have written considering that it covered Justinian’s wars against the Sassanids, Vandals, Ostrogoths, and Visigoths that he never fought in personally despite the Byzantines taking back North Africa, Italy, and Southern Spain, while it also featured the Nika Riots of 532 that almost destroyed Constantinople if it were not for Justinian having it brutally put down, the spectacular careers of his generals like Belisarius and Narses, the codification of Roman laws, the construction of many notable landmarks like the Hagia Sophia, the Plague of Justinian that almost brought the empire down killing thousands each day, and the hidden story of how Justinian acquired silkworms from China using these smuggled silkworms to begin manufacturing silk in Byzantium. With all these events taking place in one story, it was then set to be a very spectacular one that was not only an action story but one with a lot of drama, intrigue, and overall a larger-than-life figure which was Emperor Justinian I the Great.

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Flavius Belisarius, Byzantine general in Justinian I’s reign, art by Amelianvs

The writing process of chapter III was then something very engaging and memorable especially when putting all these legendary historical figures like Emperor Justinian I, his wife Empress Theodora, the generals Belisarius and Narses, the finance minister John the Cappadocian, the jurist Tribonian, the Sassanid emperor Khosrow I, the Ostrogoth king Totila, and Justinian I’s nephew and successor Justin II into one story, while just like in chapter I and II wherein I blended fictional characters into the historical setting wherein in chapter I it was the female Goth warrior Valdis and the assassin/ soldier Cyriacus in chapter II who was the one made up for the story to carry the secret letter to Anthemius, while in chapter III the made up character was a general named Andreas who was made to join in Belisarius’ campaigns and later encourage Justinian himself to take part in the campaign to put Italy back under Roman rule, and this character Andreas was created in the role-playing chat with Justinianus wherein I played as Andreas, however he would also be the last made up character to be blended into a historical setting for the entire series.

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The Plague of Justinian, 542

Now the alternate history scenario for chapter III had a lot to do with the deadly plague of 542 that Justinian himself was a victim of, although in the story Justinian would end up using the plague as an act of biological warfare which he would use against the Sassanids in the east by sending over plague victims there to spread the plague and destroy their empire in order to focus on his dream of reconquering the lost Roman west. Other than the plague, the other fan fiction part of the story was in having the old emperor Justinian himself join his military campaign to recapture Italy from the Ostrogoths, and in the story Justinian being depressed over the death of his wife Theodora in 548 would go himself to Italy to get a sense of purpose again, though on the other hand the other part the story wanted to explore was to have Justinian properly train his successor, his nephew Justin II as in real history Justin II succeeded his uncle in 565 following his death without any proper training in running an empire, though in this story what would be different would be that Justin would join his uncle Justinian in his Italian campaign to train to be a strong ruler like his uncle.

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Emperor Justin II of Byzantium (r. 565-578), nephew and successor of Justinian I

True enough the story ended happily with Justin II succeeding his uncle in 565, and with the Sassanid Empire no longer around things would be much easier for him especially in focusing on the reconquest of the west, unlike in real history where Justin II inherited from his uncle a very massive empire covering the entire Mediterranean that proved to be too difficult to hold together. Indeed, the 6th century was a very challenging time with the Byzantines reconquering Roman lands lost to barbarians all while they were being pressured by the Sassanids in the east and by a deadly plague, and even though Justinian I achieved his dream in the end, it still cost a lot as the plague and wars depopulated his empire, most especially Italy that just shortly after his death, Byzantine rule over Italy would gradually slip away to a new barbarian invader, the Lombards.

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Icon of Emperor St. Justinian the Great (r. 527-565)

Just how the 6th century was a great challenge that still achieved a lot at the end, it was also a great challenge to write chapter III considering that it was longer than the previous two chapters and had so much story to tell, while chapter III did include a lot of images too. When writing the chapter though, the bigger challenge came from outside as while I was writing the chapter, I was simultaneously busy with school work as I am still in college, and it was true enough very challenging to the point of becoming quite too stressful that I had already slept so very little in the process of doing chapter III with school work combined, that it was here when I decided to take a long break from school to focus on my alternate history series, as it would be hard to balance two difficult things at the same time. Additionally, it was when writing chapter III that I started becoming more ambitious in writing my stories that my stories would not only consist of words but images that I drew, and during March when I published chapter III, this is when I began becoming serious in doing Byzantine themed artworks, wherein one I made at this time was the black and white image of Emperor Zeno, as well as the illustrations of chapter III’s lead characters and a visual genealogy for Justinian’s Dynasty. At the same time, it was during the process of writing chapter III when I began a new gimmick for my Byzantine Instagram account, and this was in posting content related to the era of my current alternate history chapter, and here since my mind was set in the 6th century, most of my Instagram posts then had a lot to do with events happening then. The challenge now at this time was in promoting my Byzantine content online, as it was here in March when I began to aggressively promote my work wherein, I have to admit it was quite a difficult time for me then as my following was basically at a standstill with very little growth, however in the long-term chapter III would turn out to be the most mentioned chapter as its story especially a mention of Justinian I kept making a comeback in the next 9 chapters of the series.

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Detailed map of the Byzantine Empire at its fullest extent under Justinian in 555 (gold)
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The Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century under Emperor Justinian I
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Justinian I receives silkworms from monks arriving from China, 552
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Belisarius defending Rome from the Ostrogoths from 537-538, art by Amelianvs
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Guide to the Justinian Dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, 518-602; character illustrations and layout by myself

With chapter III completed, I then did another major Byzantine themed art project, which was a painting of Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1261-1282), as well as the 2nd episode of my audio epic series on Youtube (Part II: Michael VIII Palaiologos’ Redemption), and between publishing chapters III and IV, I made my first special edition quarter end chapter for the year which was as I mentioned earlier my interview with friends on their reactions to Byzantine era quotes. The process now between writing chapters III and IV was quite a long one with all the research through Youtube channels like Thersites the Historian and Kings and Generals, as well as Robin Pierson’s History of Byzantium Podcast, but at the same time, the process of writing chapter IV compared to chapter III was such a great relief with school work no longer in the way.

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Byzantine soldier (right) attacks a Slav (left) with an Avar behind, during the 7th century Balkan Wars

For me, I could really feel the change in Byzantine history when writing chapter IV, and this change for me could already be felt the moment after Justinian I’s death in 565 which I think from here on the feeling of Byzantine history begins to feel different as the late Roman era comes to an end while the dark ages begins to rise as the arrival of new enemies like the Avars, Slavs, Lombards, and the threat of the Sassanids in the east intensifying, although the Dark Ages itself is basically usually limited to Western Europe at this time and not so much to the Byzantines, however some historians mark the end of antiquity and the beginning of the Byzantine Dark Ages in the year 602 with the execution of the Byzantine emperor Maurice, the last ruler of Justinian’s dynasty and the takeover of the common soldier Phocas as emperor, wherein it would then be all downhill for Byzantium. Chapter IV would then be another new kind of phase just as it was for the Byzantines when entering the 7th century, as it was in chapter IV when I would leave the late Roman era wherein chapters I to III were set in that my mind was so focused on for the past months, and thus enter the Middle Byzantine era wherein things will drastically change, and so did the layout of the chapters as the late Roman military structure drawing of mine beginning in chapter IV was no longer in use.

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Emperor Heraclius (r. 610-641), art by Skamandros

Although when writing chapter IV, I still began with a long background section discussing the events after Justinian I’s death in 565, his successors, how the threat of the Sassanids from the east grew worse thus ending the Golden Age Justinian I left behind for Byzantium, the overthrow of Maurice and rise of Phocas, the fall of Phocas in 610 and the rise of Emperor Heraclius, the great Byzantine-Sassanid War from 602-628, the fall of the Sassanid Empire, and the rise of a new and unexpected enemy, which were the Arabs coming from the deserts of the south. The second and main part of chapter IV would then discuss Byzantium after the fall of the Sassanids and the rise of the Arabs, which then included the drastic loss of so much territory to the Arabs including Egypt and Syria, how Asia Minor would then become Byzantium’s new heartland, the formation of the Thematic System that would define the Byzantines for the next 4 centuries, and the wars with the Arabs that would also define Byzantium for the next 4 centuries as well.

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Emperor Constans II of Byzantium (r. 641-668), art by myself

For the lead character of chapter IV, I chose the Byzantine emperor Constans II (r. 641-668), which is quite an unlikely choice as for the 7th century the Byzantine emperor that would be the most remembered would be Constans’ grandfather Emperor Heraclius (r. 610-641) who was the emperor that lived long enough to see the Sassanids fall only to be replaced as a new major threat by the Arabs. It was however in Constans II’s reign when the Arab threat became real, and so did the creation of Byzantium’s Theme System, which is why I chose to make him the lead character and his reign the story’s main setting. The alternate history scenario for the 4th chapter was then to have Constans II survive the assassination attempt on him in 668, where in real history he was killed in his bath when attempting to move the Byzantine capital to Sicily fearing that Constantinople was no longer safe especially if the Arabs attacked it by sea.

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Assassination of Constans II in real history with the use of a soap dish, 668

In chapter IV, with Constans II surviving the attempt on his life, the Byzantine capital would then be temporarily moved to Sicily, although without much results, thus this would be the first chapter wherein the what if would not really be useful to the Byzantine protagonists at the end, however chapter IV would end with the epic battle being the first Arab Siege of Constantinople from 674-678 wherein Constans’ son and successor Emperor Constantine IV successfully defended Constantinople due to the invention of a Byzantine superweapon which was Greek Fire, though in the story Constans II had lived long enough to come to Constantinople’s rescue during the siege wherein everyone thought he had disappeared. In addition, chapter IV was the first one in the series to feature a multinational conflict as while the Byzantines and Arabs were at war with each other, I put a fictional scenario of a Sassanid army returning to ally with their old enemy the Byzantines against the Arabs which was their common enemy, while I also thought of giving a bigger role to Tang Dynasty China as in the 7th century as well, Constans II sent Byzantine ambassadors to Tang China to send gifts to their emperor and get some in return, although history does not record much about it, but in the story I put in a fictional part of China assisting the Byzantines against the Arabs by attacking the Arabs from behind as the Arabs did in fact expand so fast that in only a few decades since they united and rose from the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, they were able to take over all of Egypt and Syria from the Byzantines, destroy the Sassanid Empire, and reach as far as Central Asia to the east. Chapter IV was thus a turning point in the series with the rise of the Arabs as well as the new dystopian kind of setting the Byzantine Empire would be in, and it was also in the process of doing chapter IV when I began taking my Byzantine themed art much more seriously, thus for the chapter I did a black and white style drawing of its lead character Constans II, as well as an illustration of Constantinople’s land walls. Both in the timeline of the story and in the publishing date, the time jump between chapter III and IV was large, and it was on April 15 of this year when chapter IV was published, and just like chapter II, I also published chapter IV when away on a road trip.

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The Byzantine Empire in 650 (orange)
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Expansion of the Arabs, 7th century
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Map of the first original 5 Themes of Asia Minor created under Constans II
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Greek Fire used for the first time at the 674-678 Arab Siege of Constantinople
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The Land Walls of Constantinople, art by myself

Shortly after finishing chapter IV, I already began the researching and writing process for chapter V while I was also on that same road trip where I completed chapter IV. Chapter V would then see the experimental phase of the alternate history series, and a lot of this both had to do with me wanting to experiment a bit more on Byzantine history by putting a dystopian feeling into it as well as some personal factors I have been going through at this point. Chapter V was then true enough quite entertaining to write as considering that the 8th century where it is set in is the least documented century in Byzantine history while also being my personal worst and least interesting as there were fewer epic battles and the rest all internal conflicts, though the fun part was in playing around by coming up all sorts of made-up stories for the characters in this era just to simply fill in the blanks. Though the era the chapter is set in is the least interesting for me, the writing process for chapter V may have been exciting only because of all the continued wars against the Arabs and civil wars, but its end result would then be nothing more but a story of so much senseless violence including gouged out eyes and chopped off noses, graphic scenes of soldiers eating their own feces to survive the winter, imperial anarchy, tiring wars, petty characters, and the useless breaking of icons known as “Iconoclasm” which defined the 8th century history of Byzantium.

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Emperor Leo III the Isaurian, aka Konon (r. 717-741)

When writing chapter V, I began by discussing the chaos and anarchy Byzantium fell into as the 7th century came to an end, the continued expansion of the Arabs, and then getting to the 2nd Arab Siege of Constantinople from 717-718 ending with another Byzantine victory thanks to the use of Greek Fire and the intervention of new people in the north that was once Byzantium’s enemy which were the Bulgarians, while a new emperor came to power as well which was Leo III the Isaurian, one of the powerful generals of this time who put an end to Byzantium’s 22-year anarchy period that began in 695 and once again brought stability to the empire by establishing his dynasty, however to stabilize the empire once again he issued a very unpopular policy which was that of Iconoclasm or the braking of icons believing it would save the empire as he thought icons were sinful. The ban on icons however created such division among the Byzantine people wherein some supported it especially the army while many opposed it and reacted to it with such violence, but the worst part about this simple policy of breaking religious icons led to the permanent schism between the Byzantine Orthodox and the Latin Church in the west together with the rise of the Republic of Venice as well.

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Byzantine Iconoclasm under Leo III in the 8th century

The climax of chapter V however did not have to do so much with Iconoclasm but rather with a dystopian setting in the Byzantine Empire which here was on how the banning of icons affected society, thus making it quite an unique take on setting a dystopian story in Byzantine times, as dystopian style stories are usually set in modern times. The other major story in chapter V then was the family drama within the imperial family wherein the emperor’s daughter Anna even led a resistance against her father’s Iconoclasm while her brother Constantine V strongly stood loyal to his father’s policy of breaking icons. The alternate history scenario for chapter V would then regard Artavasdos, the general and son-in-law of Emperor Leo III who being married to Anna secretly opposed Leo III’s Iconoclasm, and in real history Artavasdos after Leo III’s death in 741 did rebel against Leo’s son and successor Emperor Constantine V in 742, but at the end Artavasdos still failed, and thus Iconoclasm still continued.

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Emperor Artavasdos (r. 742-743), Funko pop recreation by myself

In the alternate history scenario however, I made Constantine V lose to Artavasdos and thus making Iconoclasm ended early enough to make amends with the west that had just been alienated from Byzantium, and the reason now why I decided to focus on such a small topic for chapter V was to show that even the smallest events such as if Artavasdos won the civil war can have a major impact on history, this way by ending Iconoclasm early enough to not create a schism with the Western Church that would end up becoming permanent.

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Emperor Constantine V of Byzantium (r. 741-742/ 743-775), art by Chrysa Sakel

Overall, chapter V considering that it was mostly a gore fest story with lots of useless drama, it was still the shortest one in the series that it could have in fact been skipped altogether, however just for the sake of experimenting I chose to do an entire chapter on this unknown part of Byzantine history, while on the other hand I used chapter V to explain some of the bigger events happening at that time such as the rapid expansion of the Arabs all the way west to Spain and the beginning of the end of Byzantine rule over Italy as by the end of the 8th century, the Byzantines were left with only the south in Italy. In addition, chapter V was the second chapter that I wrote for the series wherein I wrote it in collaboration with someone, and this was with my friend Mario (follow him on Instagram @mariopuyatrewreplays) who was also one of the 5 friends I interviewed on the their take on Byzantine history earlier on, and although he isn’t very much familiar with Byzantine history, I just thought it would be a good gimmick to have someone unfamiliar with Byzantium have his own take on the story, again for the sake of experimenting.

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The Mandalorian in Byzantine armor, art by myself

Chapter V was in fact so experimental that for this chapter I even made digital artworks of not very Byzantine looking funko-pop figures for the story’s 3 leading characters Artavasdos, Anna, and Constantine V, while my Byzantine themed artworks at this time (late April to early May) have also began becoming experimental such as the one I made with the Mandalorian in Byzantine armor. Additionally, the time I was writing chapter V was more or less the low point of my Byzantine journey this year as my social media accounts (FB and IG) saw little growth, post likes and shares, while at times I would feel as if my content was being neglected that there were even some times wherein I felt like quitting the alternate history series entirely after finishing only chapter VI, and thus starting from scratch afterwards. This kind of situation I was having back then also contributed a lot into the very experimental way I wrote my stories, while at the same time the same kind of situation was ironically the same situation Byzantium was going through where I was at in writing my series which was the Byzantine dark ages, but at the end chapter V was still published on May 2 together with a series of artworks I did relating to this time period in Byzantine history which included by black and white portraits of the 6 emperors of the 22-year Byzantine anarchy (695-717). However, I soon enough overcame these obstacles and hard times through persistence and determination by using these hard times to drive me to push harder thus unleashing a competitive streak within me that would seek to post better quality posts regularly in order to survive and not slip away.  

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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), art by myself
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Victory for the Byzantines with Bulgarian aid against the Arabs in Constantinople, 718
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Iconoclasm- breaking of religious icons and persecution of monks in the Byzantine Empire, 8th century

When it all seemed that my Byzantine journey was beginning to go downhill, it eventually did not as I still chose to persevere despite all the adversities and do all it takes to get my content recognized, and after chapter V was completed, I immediately moved on to doing another project which this time was again for my audio epic series, and on May 15 not too long after chapter V was published, I uploaded the 3rd part (Part III: The Beginning of the Decline) of my audio epic series on my channel. While editing the 3rd part of my audio epic series, I also began writing chapter VI for the alternate history series, which was then not too difficult to conceptualize and begin as the story for chapter VI was basically just a direct sequel of chapter V, wherein the story of chapter VI itself is set just right after chapter V finished off while also continuing the stories and themes that were introduced in chapter V including Iconoclasm, the beginning of the “Cold War” style conflict with the Latin west, while characters from chapter V such as Emperor Constantine V too made a comeback in chapter VI with the only difference being that the alternate history scenario of chapter V wherein Constantine V lost the civil war to Artavasdos did not happen, but instead the story would begin with how things actually went in real history.

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Emperor Leo IV the Khazar of Byzantium (r. 775-780), art by Chrysa Sakel

For chapter VI, the story’s main focus was then on Irene of Athens, the daughter-in-law of Constantine V who married Constantine’s son Leo IV “the Khazar” (r. 775-780), and following Leo IV’s death in 780, Irene came to rule the empire first as regent for her son Constantine VI until she ordered his blinding in 797, wherein afterwards she became the sole empress of the Byzantine Empire, the first time a woman would rule the empire alone. As the ruler of Byzantium, Irene had the great legacy of putting an end to Iconoclasm as she strongly believed in the use of religious icons, while at the same time she was also a strong female ruler both decisive and comfortable with herself. Just like chapters III and V, chapter VI was another article in collaboration with someone, and again it was with Justinianus the Great with whom I have worked together with in creating chapter III, and originally for chapter VI, we were again supposed to do the same kind of role playing like we did for chapter III, however the role playing through Instagram chat instead became an interview with Justinianus wherein I asked her a number of questions regarding Irene as a way to come up with her personality for the story.

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Empress Irene of Athens, regent (780-797), full empress (797-802)

The alternate history scenario for chapter VI was then my own take on the popular what if of Empress Irene and Charlemagne, the newly crowned Frankish emperor marrying as an act to unite both their empires into one massive Frankish-Roman Empire. Chapter VI also had the major innovation of being written in the form of flashbacks wherein it begins off already with Irene as empress in year 800 while she narrates the events of the past such as her backstory. Chapter VI too was the first chapter in the series that equally featured Byzantium and another empire, in this case being Charlemagne’s Frankish Empire that became the new power that conquered and united most of Europe, while Byzantium here was losing in terms of power wherein their salvation could come if both rulers of these said empires married each other.

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Irene Sarantapechaina, Byzantine empress, art by myself

The writing process for chapter VI happened to be quite a fun one especially when introducing Irene’s character, the extravagance of the Byzantine imperial court, the court rituals and ceremonies, the scheming court eunuchs, the fashion styles of the time, and the journey of Irene from a small-town orphaned girl in Athens to the ruler of the Byzantine Empire. This chapter also had some experimental elements, and here it was especially in Irene’s character not only as a strong empress but as an attractive figure as this was the only chapter in the series to have a female lead character, thus for Irene I even created an experimental seductive drawing of her in a kind of dress that may have not been existing in the Byzantine era, while additionally this story was the one too with the most side stories made up just out of fun to put some more life into it.

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Charlemagne, King and Emperor of the Franks (r. 768-814), art by myself

Chapter VI was also for me a very ambitious project and for it I created a number of more detailed and intricate drawings rather than just the character illustrations for the intro, as here I came up with a full-body drawing of the story’s lead characters Irene and Charlemagne. When writing the chapter, the entertaining part was in introducing Charlemagne, and here when showing him in person, rather than introducing him as a great man even in physical form, I chose to introduce him as a tired old man feeling like his life’s mission is over as an act of downplaying the greatness he is seen having in history, however he and Irene still married- which never happened in real history- although they only marry for an alliance to join both their empires together in order to fully defeat the Bulgarian Empire. Although each chapter in the alternate history series is made per century out of the 12 centuries in Byzantium’s history, chapter VI was a hybrid one as though it is basically the chapter for the 9th century, its events were in both the 8th and 9th centuries.

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Irene and Charlemagne as husband and wife

The story’s climax however which was Irene and Charlemagne’s wedding in 802, and the battle against the Bulgarians in 811 where the story ends however is in the 9th century, though in the early part of it. With only the early years of the 9th century discussed in the chapter, it would then so happen that my alternate history series skipped an entire part of Byzantine history, which was almost the entire 9th century itself, true enough a very important time for the Byzantine Empire as this was when Byzantium would come out of the dark ages and begin rising again, while also seeing a Renaissance in the arts and academics, and the spread of Orthodox Christianity from Byzantium to the Slavs in Eastern Europe in the latter part of the century, as well as the rise of the Bulgarian Empire and the decline of Charlemagne’s Frankish Empire and the Arab Abbasid Caliphate which were at first thought to be all powerful empires that were a main threat to Byzantium.

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Flag of Irene and Charlemagne’s fictional united Frankish-Roman Empire, crossover between Byzantine (red) and Frankish (blue) flags (photo from Reddit)

However, since the chapter was basically about Irene and Charlemagne, I chose to just set the story in the early 9th century skipping the rest of the century, while at the same writing about the outcome of this marriage between Irene and Charlemagne was also confusing especially seeing how long the union of the empires would last, which therefore requires great analytical skills wherein only great historians could succeed in doing. One thing I have to mention too about this chapter’s setting and characters was that just recently I discovered a new Byzantine podcast on Empress Irene and her story, except not including Charlemagne and an alternate history of them marrying, check out Icons/Idols: Irene. On the other hand, just a few days before publishing chapter VI on May 24, I experienced one lifetime achievement, which here was getting my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and not to mention the side effects were quite strong that the sleepiness I got from it delayed the publishing of the article by 2 days!    

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Empress Irene at the palace, art by myself
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Charlemagne crowned as “Roman emperor” by Pope Leo III in Rome, 800
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Speculated map of Irene and Charlemagne’s united empire
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Guide to the Isaurian Dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, 717-802; character illustrations and layout by myself

Before publishing chapter VI, I was at a low point in my Byzantine history journey, however success had turned out to be found just right around the corner, as after chapter VI was completed, my Byzantine online career suddenly had an upswing, and this was seen when I created and posted a visual genealogy of the Isaurian Dynasty- the emperors from Leo III to Irene- which got a great number of shares on Facebook, while on May 29 I posted an Instagram a post commemorating the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, which also happened on that day, and this post did in fact all of a sudden get hundreds of likes and multiple shares both on IG and FB, thus making it the first time since my Late Roman Military Structure drawing in late January to get so much hits. Though at the same time as I posted this very successful post, I had already begun doing research for chapter VII’s story in which I true enough even began doing it just 2 days after publishing chapter VI. Basically, because chapter VII covered a lot of content and more than 150 years of history, it required tons of research that for almost a full week I have been going through the videos of the same Thersites the Historian on Youtube as well as listening to Robin Pierson’s History of Byzantium podcast to get some more new information on the era and put the entire story together. Now since chapter VI despite being the assigned chapter to the 9th century only featured the first few years of it as the story was supposed to be about Empress Irene and Charlemagne, I instead covered the important events of the latter 9th century in chapter VII despite it being the 10th century’s respective chapter. Since there would be so much information in chapter VII, I then chose to write it in a more concise way wherein I would condense all the events of the years from the 830s to the 980s, although to still make it in the form of a fan fiction story rather than a factual story, I chose to write chapter VII in the style of a historical parody mocking but at the same time admiring the Byzantines, especially since the 9th and 10th centuries feature Byzantium at its prime with so much to admire about from them such as their victories, military might, and extravagant court life while there is also so much to mock about them at this era such as the toxic court politics and the infamous eunuchs.

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Emperor Basil I the Macedonian (r. 867-886)

When writing chapter VII, I began off with the beginnings of the Byzantine Renaissance and the evangelization of the Slavs under Emperor Michael III the Amorian (r. 842-867), the rise to power of the simple peasant turned wrestler, turned emperor Basil I the Macedonian (r. 867-886), the continued war with the now weakened Arabs, and the rise of the major Bulgarian conflict and that of their powerful ruler Simeon the Great. Once the story hit the 10th century, the more it became detailed as personally it is my all-time favorite century in Byzantine history, and no doubt because this was the glory days of Byzantium on the rise as a military and cultural power that commanded both great respect and fear among everyone around them, thus for chapter VII I had a lot of fun writing it due to its action-packed style despite it being quite complicated as it featured too many characters, battles, locations, and foreign powers like the Bulgarians, Arabs, Rus, Khazars, Magyars, Pechenegs, and the new Holy Roman Empire in the west.

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Emperor Leo VI the Wise (r. 886-912) of Byzantium

Now for chapter VII’s alternate history part, I chose to not write it like the previous 6 chapters wherein it begins with what happened in real history wherein everything will get fictional as it ends, instead I wrote it in a way wherein I just basically told it like how the story in real history was told, except to make it a fan fiction I altered a few things along the way, such as that the ruling dynasty of that time which was the Macedonian Dynasty would not actually be that dynasty, instead it would be the previous Amorian Dynasty still continued as this story went with the rumor of the Macedonian emperor Leo VI the Wise (r. 886-912) not being the dynasty’s founder Basil I’s son but the son of the emperor he killed which was Michael III being the truth, thus Leo VI’s descendants as the Macedonian Dynasty would be a lie and instead his descendants would still continue ruling as the Amorian Dynasty.

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Empress Theophano of Byzantium, omitted from chapter VII

In addition, when conceptualizing the chapters I also planned to use chapter VII as a rewrite of the graphic novel “Theophano: A Byzantine Tale” that I read earlier on in the year wherein the chapter was the exact same setting as that book, but for chapter VII, I rewrote the book’s story by omitting its lead character Theophano from the real historical setting as if she did not exist at all, and at the end things would never really change until the story’s ending if she were removed, as after all Theophano was the mother of the legendary Byzantine emperor Basil II (r. 976-1025), therefore the story ended totally differently as compared to real history due to the fact that Emperor Basil II would not be around.

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

The best part for me about writing chapter VII was that it covered the most interesting Byzantine characters as the 10th century had all of them put together including the scholarly and highly cultured emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (r. 913-959), his former co-emperor and regent Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (r. 920-944) who rose up the ranks to be emperor despite being also of low birth, the scheming court eunuchs Joseph Bringas and Basil Lekapenos, the powerful and ruthless general and later emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963-969), his successor Emperor John I Tzimiskes (r. 969-976), and the other powerful generals of the era like Leo and Bardas Phokas as well as Bardas Skleros.

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Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas of Byzantium (r. 963-969), art by Spatharokandidatos

Chapter VII too featured numerous larger than life events including Nikephoros Phokas’ wars against the Arabs and the Byzantine reconquests, Greek Fire on the sea, the chaotic regency civil war for the young emperor Constantine VII from 913-920, and the all the court intrigues including the assassination of Nikephoros II Phokas in 969. When doing chapter VII, I also made a number of ambitious art projects for the same chapter including a black and white illustration of Constantine VII- which was however done weeks prior to writing the chapter- and an illustration of Emperor Leo VI and his 4 different wives, and of course the usual icon illustrations for the story’s lead characters in which for chapter VII I did 20 of them, being the first time to do this much character illustrations since chapter II, and not mention chapter VII was also the first time the intro symbol for the story changed from the Byzantine chi-rho that had been used since chapter I to the double-headed Byzantine eagle which would be the one in use until chapter XII and is used here in this post as well. Chapter VII too featured quite a lot of images as this era in Byzantine history was perhaps the one with the most historical illustrations due to one important illustrated manuscript still around up to this day which is the Madrid Skylitzes showing the 9th, 10th, and 11th century history of Byzantium in very detailed illustrations, and for both chapters VII and VIII I used a lot of images from this manuscript. Also, not to mention while in the process of writing chapter VII, I had also been balancing the hectic workload of my Byzantine Alternate History stories with re-watching all 11 seasons of Modern Family on Netflix and playing the futuristic video game Cyberpunk 2077, which seem to be so far away from Byzantium, though these things still showed that my life was still perfectly balanced between Byzantium and the real world, as I had already been comfortable where I was at in my Byzantine journey.

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Byzantine battles in the 10th century

The more impressive part too was that when writing chapter VII, the dark days of my Byzantine career which was just less than 2 months earlier seemed like it was long gone, and ironically just like the Byzantine Empire which in the same era I was at during this point of my journey was at a very high point too while I also had reached the high point of my Byzantine journey and part of this was that when I published chapter VII on June 9- not too long after publishing chapter VI- and immediately shared it on social media, I even caught the attention of the creators of the Theophano graphic novel considering that the chapter I wrote was at the same era as their book’s setting, that they asked me to be interviewed for their site which I gladly accepted (read it here). Following the completion of chapter VII, I took quite a quick break doing a road trip again, ironically going back to where I went to after chapter II was completed 3 months earlier, and during the 4 days away I mostly kept my mind out of Byzantium for the first time in a long time until returning home with some good news that my interview on the site of Byzantine Tales had been published while my recent artworks too had been shared by other Byzantine Facebook pages, and some days later I also completed the edit and uploaded the 4th part of my late Byzantine era audio epic (Part IV: Andronikos III: The Last Revival). Feeling confident of where I was at in my Byzantine journey then, I then proceeded to do the research and begin writing chapter VIII without much hesitation, although the research process for the upcoming chapter was also another great challenge as its setting being the 11th century had so much happening while having so many sources too.

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Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood by Anthony Kaldellis

When doing the research for chapter VIII and its 11th century setting wherein the Macedonian Dynasty from chapter VII continues, I deeply immersed myself by listening to Robin Pierson’s podcasts and read the very informative non-fiction book on this era Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood by Anthony Kaldellis, in which both turned out to be of great help for putting together the story for chapter VIII. Now if chapter VII of the series basically discussed Byzantium on the rise to power and glory, its direct successor chapter VIII was basically written as the reverse story to chapter VII as it discussed Byzantium declining from its glory days during the 11th century. Chapter VIII would then discuss the glorious reign of possibly Byzantium’s most popular emperor these days which is Basil II (976-1025) who being omitted from chapter VII as the story omitted his mother Theophano finally had a big role to set the stage for the 11th century which begins as a glorious time for the Byzantines as they finally defeated and conquered their major enemy the Bulgarian Empire to the north thus putting the entire Balkans under their rule.

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Painting of Emperor Basil II of Byzantium (r. 976-1025), art by myself

Chapter VIII though was also the last chapter in the series to feature the conflict between the Byzantines and Arabs in the east, as the 11th century saw the end of the Arab-Byzantine conflicts that began way back in the 7th century where chapter IV was set in due to the rise of another new eastern enemy, the Seljuk Turks of Central Asia. Aside from continuing in discussing the same Byzantine court politics, extravagance, and extensive military campaigns of the 10th century that continued on to the 11th century, chapter VIII also discussed the rise of new threats to Byzantium such as the Normans in the west and the Seljuk Turks in the east together with their backstories, as well as many side stories like that of the origins of the famous Nordic and Rus Varangian Guard in the Byzantine army wherein the future King of Norway Harald Hardrada served in from the 1030s-1040s and the Great Schism of 1054 which was then the permanent divide between the Byzantine and Latin Churches.

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Byzantine Cataphract cavalry soldier in the 11th century, art by myself

The climax of chapter VIII however was the catastrophic Battle of Manzikert in 1071, which was the event marking the end of Byzantium’s glory days and although it may not have really been a terrible disaster for the army, it would still result in the permanent loss of Byzantine rule over their heartland Asia Minor and the collapse of the centuries old Thematic System there that had been around since the 7th century. Now just like chapter VII, chapter VIII was written in the same kind of way wherein there was more facts than fictional elements, though only at the end do things change as the story’s what if was to have a Byzantine victory over the invading Seljuk Turks at the 1071 Battle of Manzikert, whereas in real history it was a Byzantine defeat.

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Byzantine (left) and Seljuk (right) cavalrymen clash at the Battle of Manzikert, 1071

Chapter VIII then true enough altered history by having a Byzantine victory wherein the emperor Romanos IV Diogenes would not be captured by the Seljuk Turks’ sultan Alp Arslan, however the main point of the story was to prove that it was not the Battle of Manzikert that really destroyed Byzantium in the 11th century but the corruption, betrayals, and wasteful spending in the imperial court, as well as weak leadership of emperors like Constantine X Doukas (r. 1059-1067) and Michael VII Doukas (r. 1071-1078). In the story, I also explained that even with a Byzantine victory at Manzikert, Byzantium would still be brought down from the inside through corruption, although the major difference with a Byzantine victory at Manzikert was that a lot of Asia Minor would not really be lost to the Seljuks while the First Crusade which was called for in 1095 as a result of the Seljuks’ victory at Manzikert in real history would still be called as true enough the First Crusade’s real purpose was not really to help the Byzantines recover lands lost to the Seljuks but to take back the city of Jerusalem that had also fallen to the Seljuks. While doing chapter VIII, I had also created several Byzantine themed artworks including a black and white Byzantine style inspired drawing of Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine on the Death Star II, and for chapter VIII itself I did the usual illustrations for the lead characters, but more than that, I also did a full-scale drawing of a Byzantine cataphract cavalry soldier for the story as well as a drawing of the famous future King of Norway Harald Hardrada as a Varangian Guard who had a cameo in the story as well, while I also made a genealogy for the Doukas Dynasty which ruled Byzantium in the setting of chapter VIII (1059-1081) wherein the Battle of Manzikert took place in. Chapter VIII itself was published on June 29 right before the end of the very eventful month, and unlike the Byzantine Empire that had begun going through a decline in power at this time, my own Byzantine journey’s success still remained yet continued to grow at the same time with the sudden increase of followers on Instagram, thus making June surely an eventful month.  

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Emperor Leo VI of Byzantium and his 4 wives, art by myself
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A scene of the Rus-Byzantine War of 941 from the Madrid Skylitzes
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Nikephoros Phokas enters Constantinople in 963, Madrid Skylitzes
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The Byzantine Empire (red) at its apogee, at Basil II’s death in 1025
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Painting of the fateful Battle of Manzikert between the Byzantines and Seljuks, 1071
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Byzantine- Star Wars crossover, Emperor Palpatine as a Byzantine emperor on Death Star II, art by myself
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Genealogy of the Doukas Dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, 1059-1081; character illustrations and layout by myself

The success of my Byzantine journey would then continue onwards after the completion of chapter VIII and this was seen with the success of new posts most notably that of my Byzantine cataphract cavalry soldier and Harald Hardrada as a Varangian Guard illustration which got a great number of likes and shares both on FB and IG, with in fact a total of 39 shares on Facebook.

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Harald III Sigurdsson “Harald Hardrada”, King of Norway (r. 1046-1066), former Varangian Guard commander in the service of Byzantium, art by myself

The month of July was then set to be a busy one for me, as not only was it the month for writing and publishing chapter IX, but it was also a busy one for posting on Instagram as it was here when I posted so much new and unique interesting content that would define my Byzantine IG account. These posts would include a 5-part series I did on Byzantium’s famous Varangian Guard and on the Armenian city of Ani in the Byzantine era in which were all successful posts, and in between publishing chapters VIII and IX, I published my article on how I rank the 12 centuries of Byzantine history from my personal best to worst which then came out on July 7 as a break article between chapters. Now the researching part for chapter IX was quite challenging as the History of Byzantium podcast by Robin Pierson had not yet reached the era of the chapter which was the 12th century, thus for research I had to turn to my old go to book for a more concise approach in telling Byzantine history which was the History of the Byzantine Empire by Radi Dikici, while also going through Wikipedia to get more information on the era and its people.

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Map of the 4 Crusader States of Outremer in 1135, during the reign of Byzantine emperor John II Komnenos

Writing chapter IX was also a challenge for me especially when getting the facts right as this era was a confusing one, although it was also exciting to write as the 12th century it was set in featured Byzantium, the now rising kingdoms of Western Europe, the Seljuk Turks, the new Crusader states in the Levant known as Outremer, the Balkans, and the Arab powers of the Middle East all coming together. Chapter IX was then really supposed to be the chapter on the Crusades as it was its era, thus chapter IX began where chapter VIII left off which was the beginning of the First Crusade which was originally called for by the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118), originally aimed in helping Byzantium drive away the Seljuks that have taken over Asia Minor since their victory at Manzikert in 1071, but at the end the Crusaders’ real intention was to take back Jerusalem from the Seljuks for themselves and not assist Byzantium recover their lost lands, and as the Crusaders succeeded in achieving their goal, they became a new neighbor to Byzantium that would be both a friend or an enemy.

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Emperor Alexios I Komnenos meets the leaders of the First Crusade, 1096

In the meantime, after sharing chapter VIII which was about Manzikert to the Alternate History Discussion Group on Facebook, I got one suggestion from a comment saying that my next chapter should have to do with the following century (12th century) about an event that could stop the catastrophic 4th Crusade of 1204, another major disaster for the Byzantines that would begin the end for their empire, thus I kind of took this comment into consideration for the 9th chapters’ alternate history topic. Originally when conceptualizing the chapters, the story of chapter IX was only supposed to be about the rather controversial Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelos (r. 1185-1195) wherein the story would prevent his blinding in 1195 by his older brother Alexios- who in real history blinded Isaac and took over the throne thus leading to the 4th Crusade in 1204- and if this event were to happen then this could possibly prevent the 4th Crusade from happening.

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Isaac II Angelos, Byzantine emperor (r. 1185-1195), art by myself

However, this what if scenario for chapter IX did not push through for rather complicated reasons being the first and only time in the series wherein an original idea did not push through for the chapter’s story, instead I chose to go with another what if for the 12th century, and this would have to do with identifying events that may have led to the disastrous 4th Crusade in 1204 and thinking of ways to avoid them to prevent that tragic event from happening. The story for chapter IX then covered the 3 consecutive stable and successful reigns of Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118), his son John II (1118-1143), and his son Manuel I (1143-1180) which was a total of 99 years combined, while at the same time the chapter also featured the First, 2nd, and 3rd Crusades, the rise of the Republic of Venice and the kingdoms of Western Europe including the Normans of Italy, the rise of Balkan powers like Serbia and the Kingdom of Hungary, the Seljuk Empire that had been established in Asia Minor that was there to stay, and a lot more.

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Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143-1180), art by Justinianus the Great

For the Byzantines, most of the 12th century was another time of power and dominance over the Mediterranean where Byzantium was basically the bully of the era under the Komnenos emperors wherein the new Crusader states even became Byzantium’s vassals. However, this renewed era of power would not last as following the death of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos in 1180, everything would go downhill for Byzantium, as his son and successor Alexios II Komnenos (r. 1180-1183) was still only a child, thus he was overthrown and killed by Manuel I’s cousin and strongest enemy Andronikos I Komnenos who took over the throne with a bloody massacre of Constantinople’s Latin inhabitants and later only making things worse for the empire by running the empire in a totalitarian manner. In the story, what was then changed was that before killing young Alexios II and taking over the empire, Andronikos’ plot was discovered by the loyalists of the young emperor including Isaac Angelos- who in real history was chosen by the people to seize the throne and overthrow Andronikos I- though in this story, Andronikos’ plot was discovered and thus he was blinded and exiled unlike in real history where he ruled for the next 2 years (1183-1185) until being overthrown by Isaac Angelos and executed by being brutally beaten to death by the same people that put him in power just recently.

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The young emperor Alexios II beneath the shadow of his uncle Andronikos, art by Ediacar

The climax of chapter IX then featured the same Norman invasion of Byzantine Greece in 1185 like in real history which was defeated by the Byzantines, though while the Byzantines won a major victory, they also faced a major challenge of the Bulgarians once again breaking free from Byzantine rule after being under Byzantium since Basil II’s conquest of 1018, thus the 2nd Bulgarian Empire was declared in 1185. However, in the story the young Emperor Alexios II who survives the attempt on his life carefully plans the elimination of all rivals including the leaders of the Bulgarian uprising and his exiled uncle Andronikos, thus the chapter ended in a very dramatic moment wherein the young emperor with the leader or Doge of Venice swear a sacred oath to be allies once again all while all enemies are eliminated one by one at the same time in the same style as the climax of The Godfather.

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

The story then ended happily for Byzantium whereas the Alexios II would continue to rule with Isaac Angelos as his right-hand-man now having more experience to one day run the empire- unlike in real history where Isaac came to rule the empire despite having not much experience- and although it was a happy ending for Byzantium with Venice which Alexios II’s father Manuel made an enemy become their ally again, and with the Bulgarian uprising defeated before it could grow worse like in real history, the 3rd Crusade still did happen, but the happy ending though was that the 4th Crusade in 1204 that sacked Constantinople never took place due to Byzantium and Venice fixing their ties with each other, as Venice in real history brought the Crusaders to Constantinople to sack it, even if the Crusade was originally aimed for Jerusalem to take it back from the new Islamic power being Saladin’s Ayyubid Empire. When doing chapter IX, I also did a number of art projects for the chapter like a recreation of the manuscript depicting Niketas Choniates, one of the primary historians of the 12th century, and aside from the usual lead character illustrations for the chapter, Justinianus who previously helped in writing chapters III and VI did an illustration of chapter IX’s lead character Emperor Manuel I Komnenos in her own style. Chapter IX was then published on July 19, and only after finishing chapter IX did I do my own illustrations for the 3 Angelos emperors of Byzantium: Isaac II, Alexios III, and Alexios IV who are said to be Byzantium’s 3 worst emperors.   

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Map of the Byzantine Empire (pink) at Manuel I’s death, 1180
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Manuel I Komnenos (on a horse) at a triumphal parade in Constantinople
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Isaac II Angelos’ rise to power by beheading Andronikos I’s hitman, 1185
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Normans from Sicily invade Byzantine Greece, 1185

As chapter IX was completed and published, I quickly worked on the 5th episode of my audio-epic series (Part V: Double Disaster: Civil War and Black Death) which was uploaded before the end of July and true enough my schedule in late July and early August was a very tight one with all the art projects included.

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John III Doukas Vatatzes, Byzantine emperor in Nicaea (r. 1222-1254), art by myself

After chapter IX was completed, I immediately began working on my acrylic painting of Emperor Basil II which was to be completed on the day he defeated the 2nd Bulgarian Empire (July 29), while at the same time I was also working on my drawing on the 3 Angelos emperors, and lastly a black and white illustration of Emperor John III Vatatzes (r. 1222-1254), who would be the lead character for chapter X. The time for writing chapter X too was a tight one, but luckily before writing I already knew a lot of information for the era the chapter was to be set in which was the 13th century in which I have been making many Lego films including audio epics of it in the past, while I was lucky here also since the Youtube channel Kings and Generals had also published some videos regarding that era earlier on. When writing chapter X, I then wrote it with such speed but again as I already knew the events of the time, it was not so much of a challenge to write, however the challenging part of writing it was its very confusing story, as this chapter covered the 4th Crusade of 1204 which temporarily ended the Byzantine Empire and fractured the area of the Byzantine Empire into so many different states both Latin and Byzantine Greek. Although for chapter IX I gave a more positive image to the controversial Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelos, for chapter X however where he returns, I returned to portraying him as he is usually portrayed in history as an incompetent and corrupt ruler while his dynasty was even much worse that their bad leadership would eventually lead to the army of the 4th Crusade arriving before Constantinople’s walls in 1203.

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4th Crusade army storms Constantinople’s walls, 1204

Chapter X’s main highlight then was the tragic betrayal and fall of Constantinople to the 4th Crusade’s Western European army in 1204 which led to the victorious Crusaders carving up Byzantine lands and dividing it among themselves while looting tons of precious Byzantine treasures and relics taking them back to Europe, though the Byzantines that survived it had formed their own successor states such as the Empire of Nicaea, Empire of Trebizond, and Despotate of Epirus, while in the north the absence of Byzantium allowed the newly proclaimed 2nd Bulgarian Empire to grow. The confusing part about chapter X was in combining all these post-1204 successor states and the constant fighting among them into one story, however the what if for this 13th century story would take place in 1235 wherein the powerful Bulgarian emperor Ivan Asen II and the exiled Byzantine emperor of Nicaea John III Vatatzes team up to take back Constantinople from the Latin Empire.

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Tsar Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria (r. 1218-1241), art by HistoryGold777

Although both rulers teamed up in real history, neither of them succeeded in taking back Constantinople from the Latins, however in the story the change was very shocking with Ivan Asen II betraying John III and capturing Constantinople from the Latins for himself, thus putting Constantinople under Bulgarian rule. This chapter’s what if as mentioned earlier was then something I have planned long before I conceptualized the whole series, as last year when doing my audio epics set in the 13th century, I came across this very unfamiliar and unlikely what if of the 2nd Bulgarian Empire taking over Constantinople in 1235. Chapter X though ended with what did not happen in real history, which here was John III eventually taking back Constantinople from the Bulgarians after Ivan II’s death in 1241 thus restoring the Byzantine Empire that was thought to have died out in 1204, as in real history John III died in 1254 and Constantinople was only recaptured by the Byzantines of Nicaea in 1261.

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Emperor John III Vatatzes in imperial armor on a horse

Due to so much happening in the early 13th century, I chose to end chapter X by 1261 no longer covering the latter part of the 13th century, although chapter X uniquely featured an alternate ending wherein I had the dynasty of John III Vatatzes survive by having Michael Palaiologos, the man who overthrew John III’s dynasty in 1261 blinded and imprisoned for life as his plot to overthrow the dynasty was discovered, thus in the story the descendants of John III or the Laskaris-Vatatzes Dynasty would continue ruling the restored Byzantium. On the other hand, the success of my Byzantine journey had still continued, at the time I was writing chapter X, although not really increasing too much but at least still staying at the same level of success, and part of this was seen with one of my Instagram posts which was a map I made of the post-1204 Byzantium with the different states’ respective coats of arms on it which then got a number of likes and shares and so did my drawing of the 3 Angelos emperors, and my post on August 15 about the reestablishment of Byzantium in 1261 which did happen on that day, and later on another one on the Slavs in the 6th century according to the Byzantines which was for me a very surprising success that now has more than 600 likes on IG. Other than having my success continue after chapter X, I also uploaded the 6th part of my late Byzantine history audio epic (Part VI: The Tragedy of John V Palaiologos), which was uploaded just 2 weeks after finishing chapter X and 3 weeks after the previous video of the series, and it was here when the stories of my late Byzantine history audio epics began coinciding with the stories of my chapters, and other than all the successes I have been facing at this time, it was also between finishing chapter X and before starting the next chapter wherein I got the 2nd dose for the COVID-19 vaccine, thus becoming fully vaccinated. Now as for chapter XI, this then happened to be the one with the quickest writing process out of all the chapters in the entire series, and most of this was due to having enough information on the era in advance considering that the audio epic series I was working on and still working on now is set in the same timeline as chapter XI which is the late 13th and the rest of the 14th centuries.

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Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos of Byzantium (r. 1261-1282), painting by myself

The rest of the events of the late 13th century beginning with the Byzantine reconquest of Constantinople in 1261 and the reign of Michael VIII Palaiologos (1261-1282), the War of the Sicilian Vespers in 1282, the first attempt to convert the Byzantine Empire to Catholicism in the 1270s, the reign of Michael VIII’s son and successor Andronikos II (1282-1328), and the further destruction brought to Byzantium by the Catalan mercenaries were then covered in chapter XI. At the same time, chapter XI was the chapter made to introduce the final act of Byzantine history as it was the first chapter to introduce the Ottoman Turks as the new enemy of Byzantium that would in 1453 bring about their end replacing the now dissolved Seljuk Empire in Asia Minor, while the chapter also continued the story of the Mongols as well as the 2nd Bulgarian Empire, but also of the rise of Serbia into a kingdom and eventually to the dominant power of the Balkans being the Serbian Empire. Chapter XI’s story also featured the reign of Andronikos III Palaiologos (1328-1341) being the last period of revival for Byzantium by reconquering most of Greece, as what followed his death in 1341 was a devastating civil war between his wife Anna of Savoy backing their young son Emperor John V and Andronikos III’s right-hand-man and general John Kantakouzenos.

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Emperor John V Palaiologos (r. 1341-1391), art by Justinianus the Great

The story then basically went through what actually happened in real history whereas John Kantakouzenos won the civil war in 1347 becoming Emperor John VI only to have the plague of Black Death hit the Byzantine Empire and further destroy it all while their northern neighbor the Serbian Empire under their newly proclaimed emperor Stefan IV Dusan not being much affected by the plague took advantage of Byzantium’s weakness and took over a lot of Byzantine territory in Greece. The story of the 14th century in chapter XI was then only altered when reaching the 1350s and here I chose to have the Serbian emperor Dusan capture Constantinople, not to conquer and pillage it but to save Byzantium from dying, therefore I chose to make this chapter’s story very much like the previous chapter with a foreign power taking over Byzantium.

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Stefan Uros IV Dusan, King of Serbia (1331-1346), Emperor of Serbia (1346-1355)

The lead character for chapter XI then was the Serbian emperor Stefan IV Dusan who I chose to portray in a more positive light as an admirer of Byzantium despite him being their enemy and in changing the course of history, I had him take over Byzantium to not only save it from deteriorating but to fully expel the Ottomans from the Balkans before they begin to expand, as in real history Dusan never took over Constantinople while the Ottomans after first crossing into Europe in 1354 began rapidly expanding to the point of destroying both the Serbian and Bulgarian Empires. Chapter XI then ended with Constantinople returning to Byzantine rule after Dusan’s death in 1355, though the main difference was that the Ottomans would no longer pose as a threat. The 14th century history of Byzantium true enough never interested me much as it basically just featured Byzantium as a weak and impoverished state with so much wars, plotting, and disaster to the point where it already becomes too tiring unlike how it was in Byzantium’s glory days of the 10th century, therefore I did not put as much effort and attention into writing chapter XI that I could have in fact skipped this entire era being the 14th century which many historical books featuring Byzantium do anyway.

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Byzantine art recreated- Chrysobull of Emperor Andronikos II (r. 1282-1328, left) presenting the document to Christ (right), art by myself

However, since all centuries in Byzantine history were to be represented per chapter, I still went with doing a chapter for the 14th century anyway where the most possible what if was for Dusan to take over Byzantium as it was part of his intention in real history anyway. On the other hand, chapter XI was also basically more or less the teaser chapter for the grand finale (chapter XII), while I also did not do much art projects for chapter XI except for the usual lead character illustrations in which I only featured 10 characters as very early on back in February I already did an illustration of the Byzantine emperor Andronikos III and his wife Empress Anna of Savoy recreating a historical illustration of them, while in March I did a portrait of Emperor Michael VIII, and in April a recreation of a historical illustration of Andronikos II.

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Seal of the Palaiologos Dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, founded in 1261

Chapter XI was then completed and published on August 31 and when sharing it, it got rather mixed reviews in the comments section just like chapter X previously, and for chapter XI the comments I got usually said that they did not agree much with Constantinople being taken over by Dusan seeing it as worthless, but despite the criticism the success of my Byzantine journey was still ongoing. While doing chapter XI, I also came across new things such as beginning in watching the series Downton Abbey and later Into the Night on Netflix, replaying Assassin’s Creed Valhalla for PS4, and beginning a new Byzantine historical novel which was The Usurper which was also set in the same era as that of chapter XI.

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Map of the Division of the Byzantine Empire after 1204 with the respective flags and seals of post and pre-1204 states, design by myself
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Constantinople falls to the 4th Crusade, 1204
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The 1261 Byzantine Reconquest of Constantinople, art by FaisalHashemi
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Byzantine art recreated- Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos (r. 1328-1341) and his wife Empress Anna of Savoy, art by myself
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Coronation of Dusan as Emperor of Serbia in Skopje, 1346
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Map of the spread of Black Death across Europe, 1347-1351

Before writing the finale chapter XII, I first finished reading The Usurper and even published a review for it on September 11 (read it here) accompanied by a drawing I made of its lead character the late 13th century Byzantine general Alexios Philanthropenos, while at the same time as my success was continuing, on September 6 I posted an artwork I made of Emperor Theodosius I (r. 379-395) which was the day he won a victory at the Battle of Frigidus in 394 becoming the last emperor of a united Roman Empire before it permanently split with the east becoming the Byzantine Empire and the west falling in 476, and again this post was a success on both FB and IG.

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Alexios Philanthropenos from The Usurper, art by myself

At the same time, before writing chapter IX I also returned to studying after 5 months of being on break, although only doing one subject, thus chapter XII’s release date was delayed as originally it was supposed to be out on September 15, but due to other things I had to do, the date for release was moved to September 27. The process of writing chapter XII then was a long one as considering it being the series’ finale, I put a lot of time and attention to it in order to make a well-made conclusion to the entire 12-part series. Now ever since the very beginning when conceptualizing all the chapters for the series, I already had very big plans for chapter XII which was the finale set in the 15th century being Byzantium’s last century, therefore I wanted to have the final chapter have a much more epic story with a battle more epic than that in the past chapters for its climax, and to also have stories from all the other past chapters including characters like Justinian I the Great and Nikephoros II Phokas make a comeback as a fitting way to end the series.

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Flag of the Ottoman Empire, born in 1299

The researching part and the structuring for chapter XII too was quite tricky, as for the final chapter the story itself was not only about Byzantium as by the 15th century, Byzantium itself had already been so reduced, thus the story itself had a lot more to do about the Ottoman Empire now growing strong than ever, the rest of the Balkans including Serbia, Albania, Wallachia, and Hungary, and the now more powerful kingdoms of Western Europe becoming aware of the threat of the Ottomans. The 15th century where chapter XII was set in was also a time of great transition wherein the Middle Ages transitioned into the Renaissance especially in Italy while the Age of Exploration also began especially in Portugal, while for Byzantium things went the other way around as centuries ago, they were the advanced power both respected and feared by all others around them, but by this point they were the ones weaker and backwards while the rest of the developments happened in the rest of Europe.

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Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos of Byzantium (r. 1391-1425)

With all the stories of the wars against the Ottomans, the birth of the Renaissance and Age of Exploration, the schism with the Latin Church still continuing, and lastly the 1453 Siege of Constantinople, the finale then went along with real history beginning with the reign of Manuel II Palaiologos (1391-1425) wherein the Ottoman Empire was temporarily destroyed following the defeat of the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I to Timur and his forces at the Battle of Ankara, then the story proceeded to the reign of Manuel II’s son John VIII Palaiologos (1425-1448) wherein the old ideas from Byzantium would spread to Italy and help introduce the Renaissance when John VIII himself visited Italy.

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Emperor John VIII Palaiologos of Byzantium (r. 1425-1448)

The story also discussed the tensions in Byzantium especially about uniting with the Latin Church in the west to stand against the Ottomans wherein many Byzantines opposed it choosing to fall to the Ottomans rather than giving up their soul being the Orthodox faith and submit to the pope as a result of the trauma they faced under the Catholic Latins of the 4th Crusade in 1204, and this conflict was true enough even present in the ruling dynasty as the emperor John VIII as well as his brothers Constantine and Thomas supported the union while the other brother Demetrios stood against with such passion creating a strong conflict between the brothers despite their empire already on the verge of extinction. The climax of the story would then take place during the reign of John VIII’s brother Constantine XI Palaiologos (1449-1453) as the last Byzantine emperor, although rather than doing what he did in 1453 in real history which was in refusing to surrender the city to the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II and instead choose to fight till the end, in the story I made Constantine XI go for the other option of surrendering Constantinople to Mehmed II in order to buy time to one day launch a massive Crusade to take back Constantinople from the Ottomans, thus totally altering history.

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Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last Byzantine emperor (r. 1449-1453)

From 1453 onwards, the story was totally altered as Mehmed II took over Constantinople without a fight, while Constantine XI returned to the Morea in Southern Greece, the last Byzantine holding to once again be its Despot (governor) together with his brother Thomas while the other brother Demetrios then abandons and betrays them switching sides to the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II, though both Constantine and Thomas then do the bold move of going to Rome themselves to fully submit to the pope and convert to Catholicism, thus once and for all ending the great schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, which never happened in real history.

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Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror of the Ottoman Empire (r. 1451-1481)

The story then ends with a climactic final battle to recapture Constantinople wherein the famous rulers and defenders of Europe at this time including the Albanian resistance leader against the Ottomans Skanderbeg, the Hungarian general John Hunyadi, and the Prince of Wallachia Vlad III the Impaler all team up to join Constantine and Thomas in the recapture Constantinople from Mehmed II. In addition, I also wanted to add in a very unlikely story and this here was in having the distant Kingdom of Portugal which here was the 15th century’s rising star to come and assist in the recapture of Constantinople, as in real history the Byzantines and Portugal hardly if not had any interaction with each other at all, and just for the sake of fantasy, I had the powerful Portuguese navy come at the last minute to turn the tide of the war to the side of Byzantium, thus at the end the Ottoman Empire was shattered, and Byzantium continued to live on.

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The last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI in the Portuguese blue and white tile art style, art by myself

As the grand finale of the series, chapter XII was no doubt longer than all the previous 11 chapters as it featured so many side stories of the major characters from different parts of Europe and beyond, while it also brought back the highlights from the past 11 chapters. As part of the process of doing chapter XII, I did the usual illustrations for the leading characters which here had 15, while on the other hand as a reference to the Portuguese part in the story, the illustration I did for the story’s cover was a blue and white artwork of Emperor Constantine XI inspired by the Portuguese blue and white azulejo tiles. After publishing the final chapter on September 27, when sharing to the various history groups in Facebook I am a part of, it received rather mixed reviews wherein many commented saying that this kind of story of Constantine XI surrendering Constantinople to one day take it back seems rather absurd as the schism between east and west could not be solved while Western Europe was either too busy with their problems or too selfish to assist Byzantium, however I still did not really give much of damn about what they said as true enough the final chapter for the series was pure fantasy, and overall I was just very glad to have finished the entire series still coming out of it in one piece. Now after completing the series, my following on both FB and IG still continued to increase and after more than a week of taking a break from posting on IG, I continued posting in which my posts still continued getting the same success, and just recently on October 7 I uploaded the 7th episode of my audio epic (Part VII: Byzantium’s Last Respite) which has the same setting as the prologue part of chapter XII, and even with the series over, my Byzantine journey still has a long way to go.  

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Map of the Byzantine Empire by 1450 (purple) and other territories including the Ottoman Empire
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Renaissance Italian painting of John VIII as one of the magi, made during his stay in Florence by Benozzo Gozzoli
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The Fall and Ottoman Conquest of Constantinople, 1453
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Constantine XI’s final charge against the Ottomans on May 29, 1453, art by FaisalHashemi

Lessons from the History of Byzantium and from my Byzantine Journey, My Take on Byzantium’s Legacy, and Updates          

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Now when it comes to discussing the lessons that I have learned throughout my journey of writing the 12 chapters, I have to divide this into two parts as there were lessons that I have learned from the Byzantines in their entire 1,100-year history, and lessons I also learned from my journey as a Byzantine content producer.

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Flag of the Byzantine Empire (13th-15th centuries)

First, I shall start with the lessons I learned from the history of Byzantium itself and being an empire that lasted for a total of 1,123 years with over 90 emperors and 15 ruling dynasties, there is just so much to learn from. The biggest learning I had from the entire history of Byzantium itself that I have been impressed with the most was the longevity of their empire and how they persisted through such challenges to the point of lasting for over 1,100 years, that true enough just recently when looking at a list of the world’s longest living states in history, Byzantium ranked at #7 while the other longer living states higher than that had in fact happened to be lesser known states that had either existed in Ancient history or were very unknown states in other parts of the world like India or Africa. There were many incidents wherein Byzantium could have already surely disappeared such as in the 7th century when the Arabs all of a sudden expanded and could have conquered the entire Byzantium that had just recently been weakened by war with the Sassanids but impressively Byzantium survived while the Sassanid Empire that had been their longest enemy had completely fallen to the Arabs. When Byzantium’s golden age came to a close in 11th century with another enemy coming out the blue being the Seljuks that so rapidly crushed the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, it was also impressive here to know that Byzantium not only survived but were able to overcome this enemy and grow to become a major power again in the 12th century.

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Constantine XI in full plated armor with his broadsword at the last moments of Byzantium, art by JohnJollos

Lastly, when the army of the 4th Crusade sacked Constantinople and could have possibly ended the existence of the Byzantine Empire itself in 1204, the Byzantines though still going into exile still managed to come back and return to ruling Constantinople despite now no longer ruling a powerful empire but rather one that was a shadow of its former self, and more so that Byzantium at their last days chose to fight to the end for their empire even knowing this would be their end as the Ottomans did in fact capture Constantinople on May 29 of 1453 ending the empire. Now what I leaned from the longevity of Byzantium is that life goes that way, there are many ups and downs to go through, and many challenges to face, and just like Byzantium that overcame these life-threatening challenges through persistence and courage, the same can be said with overcoming life’s greatest challenges and surviving them. Of course, we all meet an end the same way all empires do, and for the Byzantine Empire itself I could say that if it were a person, it would have lived a life of 110 years with every century being a decade in one’s life, and truly this 1,100-year existence of Byzantium was so impressive enough that in entire lifetime as an empire, things had changed so much that the Byzantium of the 12th century ruled by the Komnenos emperors may look so far different from the Byzantium of the 6th century under Justinian I when it fact it was the same empire with the same capital, and in their entire existence they had seen many states around them both rise and fall all while they continued to exist, and even at the very end when the Ottomans conquered all their surrounding states such as Serbia and Bulgaria, Byzantium still stood.

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Byzantine Cataphracts in battle

Just as Flavian said when interviewing him, I have to agree with what he said that one of his greatest learnings from Byzantium is that success comes with the mastery of sword and spirit and this can truly be said about Byzantium as it was through fighting constant wars throughout their existence, that there was barely a time in their history that they experienced multiple decades of peace, and it was through their mastery of war and studying the battle tactics of their enemies that they were able to overcome them and survive, while for the part of the mastery of spirit I can say that they lived on for so long basically because they had the faith of Orthodox Christianity uniting them despite Byzantine society being so divided.

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Emperor Alexios I Komnenos of Byzantium (r. 1081-1118), master of both warfare and diplomacy

However, another thing I have to say about Byzantium is that they were able to live on for so long not only due to inventions of weapons like Greek Fire or having powerful armies and massive walls protecting their capital, but also because of their mastery of diplomacy, thus a very big learning from Byzantium is that winning wars also require a lot of diplomacy and true enough the Byzantines managed to turn so many enemies away by bribing them, but also the history of Byzantium teaches us that if there is no peaceful way to resolve a conflict, war is the answer as seen many times with the Byzantines. Another great learning too from Byzantine history was that they were basically the empire that continued the existence of the Roman Empire and preserved the knowledge of the Classical Era from Ancient Greece and Rome that they in fact even absorbed it and blended it together with the Christian faith, thus making them an advanced society while the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages. Of course, over time things would evolve thus the rest of Europe itself would begin advancing while Byzantium itself would stay in the past especially in its last years where their institutions that once seemed so advanced eventually began becoming obsolete, but luckily enough Western Europe was able to obtain knowledge from Byzantium to become more advanced the way Byzantium was before, thus brining about the Renaissance. As Akitku said earlier when I interviewed him, was that Byzantium was true enough a very advanced society in their time, and I have to agree here as when literally most of the entire world did not really have a structured government or laws, Byzantium did, and not only did Byzantium have a very centralized government, they also had state-funded hospitals and schools and a society that was much more literate than that of Europe and most other parts of the world in their time long before the modern age when society became like this.

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Civil War between Emperor Andronikos II and his grandson Andronikos from 1321-1328, sample of political instability in Byzantium

On the other hand, Byzantium also shows that even the most advanced societies are very vulnerable to corruption and internal division, and true enough corruption in the government, incompetence and cruelty by emperors in running the empire at some occasions, political rivalries and even fighting among ruling families, and a highly divided society especially regarding religious or political issues defined their history, but overall this shows that Byzantium was not perfect which makes them seem like any other country today rather than a mythical utopia that may or may have not existed. Meanwhile, another great learning for me is that even the Byzantine emperors no matter how powerful they seemed could lose their power at any moment the moment they lose their popularity, thus this shows that Byzantium really was the continuation of the Roman Empire of old as not only did it continue its imperial institutions but those from the Ancient Roman Republic itself, and true enough Byzantine emperors just like the Roman emperors before them and the consuls of the republic before them were not like the monarchs of Western Europe or the Sassanid or other eastern emperors (China and Japan) that had divine rights but rather, Byzantine emperors got their power from the Senate, army, and people just as how a republic works, therefore Byzantium never really had a system wherein the emperor’s eldest son would succeed him, which is why whenever an emperor comes to power, his authority is sure to be challenged despite him being the eldest son, which is why emperors had creative means of getting around this such as making their sons co-emperors as a way to already immediately name a successor to prevent power struggles.

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Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963-969), an example of an emperor going from hero to zero

In Byzantium’s history there had also been many incidents showing that their political system had allowed anyone to rise to power as emperor, thus in their history there had been generals, admirals, common soldiers, peasants, even women, young children, a tribal chieftain, and a money changer becoming emperors, thus I would have to agree with what Chrysa said that Byzantium is kind of the place to follow your dreams as if yo are lucky enough, it will lead to you to something big. There were also some incidences wherein even long before our time when people do have the right to change their system did exist, and true enough there were even some incidences in Byzantine history when revolutions led by the people changed the regime by installing a new emperor of their own choice even long before revolutions like this like the American and French Revolutions happened. Their history too had shown incidences wherein emperors despite starting out popular eventually lost their popularity the moment they are no longer in favor with their people, that some emperors in fact even lost their power when losing popular support, thus being an emperor was a really tough job as to stay in power you really needed to maintain your popularity mostly by winning battles against enemies.

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Constantine XI Palaiologos with the Byzantine emperors of the past above, left to right: Constantine I the Great, Justinian I the Great, Heraclius, Basil II, John II Komnenos, and Michael VIII Palaiologos, art by JohnJollos

Lastly, the biggest lesson I learned from Byzantium was that learning to adapt to the current situation is the way to survive, and this was true enough how Byzantium was able to live on for over a thousand years, as when the times changes such as first when the Western Roman Empire had fallen in 476, they took up the role as the civilization that was there to preserve the imperial Roman identity; when the Arab threat came out of the blue and was there to stay, the Byzantines had to adapt in order to survive, thus creating the Thematic System and Thematic army; when their economy was falling apart, they had to adapt by issuing new economic reforms and new forms of currency; but Byzantium still had major weaknesses, and for me, I would say it was religious schism which further divided their society, and no matter how great they were in solving political and economic problems in their empire, it was their religious problems they could not solve, therefore if there was something I would want to change about Byzantine history, for me it should be that they should have not gotten themselves too fixated on religious schisms which was thus the cancer in their society, especially Iconoclasm as for me I would say the same as Chrysa did, wherein if the Iconoclast policies of the 8th century never came to exist, then perhaps Byzantium would never get into any strong bitter schisms with the west, therefore no Great Schism in 1054, no bad blood between Byzantium and the west, no 4th Crusade sacking Constantinople in 1204, and surely the west will help Byzantium against the Ottomans at the end. Now even up to this day in the distant future, I would say that if we have questions about the society we live in and are either confused or frustrated, I would say that a good solution is to look back at the history of Byzantium to take a look at patterns, as after all history does repeat itself. 

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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)
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Life in 6th century Byzantine Constantinople, art by Amelianvs
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Early period Byzantine soldiers in training, art by Amelianvs
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Byzantine emperor Theophilos (r. 829-842) with the backing of the Byzantine Senate, Madrid Skylitzes
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Alexios V bribes the Varangian Guards to proclaim him emperor, 1204
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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, art by myself

Now that I have discussed the lessons that I have learned from the history of Byzantium itself, it’s now time to move on to the lessons that I have learned from my journey in creating Byzantine related content online. Basically, the greatest lesson I’ve learned from doing online content on Byzantine history whether blog posts like these, videos, or Instagram posts is to first of all set a goal on where you aim your account/ page to be headed towards as well as how big you want yourself to become in the industry, then to come up with a plan of what you will post as well as your own unique style of posting. For over 2 years now I have been posting articles about Byzantine history on this same site, however it was only at the start on this year when I decided to reach a wider audience and raise more awareness about Byzantine history by creating social media accounts relating to it, beginning with my Instagram account which I in fact was at first reluctant to start wondering in what direction it would be headed to. Although at first, I basically just posted old travel posts on Byzantine era locations I have been to in the past and behind the scenes posts of my previous Byzantine era Lego films, however when the number of my followers began to increase, it was about time that I posted things that had more depth and information mostly being Byzantine history trivia in order to make my content more interesting considering the increase in followers and engagements.

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Byzantine Cataphract cavalry unload using ramps

This strategy of posting too would include posting a variety of posts which in my case included Byzantine travel destinations, Byzantine history trivia, Byzantine fan art, sometimes a quick bio on a Byzantine emperor, and once and a while a spin off post whether it was a Byzantine-Star Wars crossover drawing or a post of another country’s history like that of the Sassanid Empire, Slavs, or even of a far-off place like India or China with a hint of Byzantine history, while when posting every post on my Instagram, from the very early days I already created a trademark of introducing the caption for every post with a diamond emoji, while the emojis too would be common in my posts to make them seem to appear more light and less scholarly, while I also chose to put in a lot of hashtags as a way to get more notice.

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Sample of my posting style on Instagram

At the same time, I also learned some tips in posting from the other accounts I follow in which one before basically posted something long everyday whether it was a bio of a Byzantine emperor or something about Byzantine history wherein the caption was so long it had to spill over to the comments- which I do at times and dread it- while another user does every post beginning with a picture of the user in that certain historical landmark wherein you can view the pictures of the place itself when swiping right while the caption below on the other hand explains the historical angle. The accounts however that basically served as the inspiration for mine included Shadows of Constantinople which tells the history of Byzantium in a very informative, smart, and more organized manner of a collage to put all the pictures at once so that everything is seen immediately, and there was the user Roman Courier which never fails in creating interesting content discussing Roman history and lesser known facts about it including debunking myths in a very light and engaging but at the same time in a very serious way by using primary and academic sources; although from the same Flavian I interviewed here, one major tip I learned in posting history content is to engage followers more by having regular Q&As as well as keeping the posts concise yet entertaining. Another strategy I considered was to also balance and in a way experiment a little in your posts by making them both historically accurate and authentic but also contemporary, meaning not going too over the top in historical authenticity, and for this one example I would give would be in terms of soundtrack when doing videos wherein I would choose to use more modern soundtracks such as those from my favorite bands Chvrches and Of Monsters and Men instead of going too over historical by using Byzantine chants as a soundtrack, while the same can be said too when for example doing a post on Byzantine Constantinople wherein I would choose to balance it better by putting historical information in the caption but using a modern illustration of Byzantine Constantinople for the image instead of one from the Byzantine era itself, and also in this case I would sometimes share funny memes relating to Byzantium as well.

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Meme of Irene blinding Constantine VI, 797

As time progressed, another trick I learned was to post at a regular interval meaning coming up with a new Byzantine IG post every 2-3 days or every 5 days at the most in order to keep things balanced, as posting something or even more than one post every day would soon enough become too tiring for viewers, while posting irregularly- like once every week and once every 2 weeks at times- would confuse viewers making them wonder where you went, while posting irregularly too would not really get you anywhere in followers and engagements unless you have already reached your peak.

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Slavic warriors attacking a Byzantine fortress in the late 6th century, one of my most successful Instagram posts

Along the way, I also came up with a strategy to post on Instagram posts relating to the era where I was at in writing the alternate history stories, and it was around March in between doing chapters II and III when I developed this trick, which was basically a way to just keep my mind focused on the era I was currently working on. When it comes to posting something that would get a lot of hits, from my experience it was usually doing a post about what happened on this certain day, such as my post on the Fall of Constantinople on May 29, while on the other hand the posts that would get the most number of likes as well as comments sometimes happen to be the most unlikely ones, and in my case it was my post on the Slavs and how Byzantium saw them, which then got me a lot of followers including catching the attention of one user posting similar content as I do (follow Slavic History Mythology on Instagram). Of course, if you want your post to gain more attention including shares globally, what I do here is to post whatever I posted on Instagram to my Facebook page, then share it to various Byzantine history related groups that have thousands of members like Roman and Byzantine History, The History of the Byzantine Empire, and Byzantine Real History, which is also basically how I share my blog posts. What I would then say is the key to a successful post is consistency, and I do this by as I said posting things related to the era you’re currently working at, and not to wander off too much into different eras, however for a change it would be good to do so as well. With success however comes a lot of criticism, and in my journey I began experiencing a lot of this especially when my accounts became more successful, and a lot of this had to do with comments of others disagreeing with my post or sometimes speaking ill about Byzantium, and usually I reply back to explain exactly what I was saying or usually don’t mind them if they are just senseless comments as these could be trolls, although this criticism also shows that at least people are interested, though sometimes I also speak out my opinion by commenting what I think or what I suggest for the posts of others especially when it comes to a topic in Byzantine history that interests me a lot. The very rare thing now that I’ve faced was other users plagiarizing by posting the exact same content that I had posted behind my back without mentioning me, and although I very rarely experience this, what I do here about it is to usually remind them when seeing it that the post was originally mine, and also if it all comes to worse; I would report the post. On the other hand, another great experience was in having people out of the blue send you messages praising your content or being plainly curious to know about you and why you like Byzantine history, and when my account became successful, I have experienced this a number of times, in which this kind of experience taught me how to be truly appreciative for something like that to happen as these moments are very rare. Now, one very major thing I learned about in my journey of creating Byzantine history content is to know your audience and who exactly are you aiming to impress, as when it comes to posting about history, people see things differently, and in my experience, I have noticed there are two kinds of audiences, in which there is for one the history fans or history buffs such as myself, and there are the authorities which are basically the scholars and professors of Byzantine history.

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Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos (r. 1391-1425) with his family manuscript

Based on my experience, both these audiences are usually different from each other and certain posts please either of them, and usually my posts due to its more contemporary and easier to understand style please more history buffs which are the majority of users on Instagram, while posts that usually contain more information on sources and more historical accuracy please the authorities more. At the end however, as I have learned it is quite difficult to please both at the same time or in my case to please the authorities, therefore it turns out that my posts appeal more to history buffs, and although this may not command as much respect as it does when pleasing historical authorities, at least I can get a wider variety of audience, as after all my mission and vision for my Byzantine history social media accounts was to make the history of Byzantium accessible to everyone of all walks of life whether they are familiar with it or not, rather than to just keep the history of Byzantium among a smaller circle of scholars and historians. Of course it would still be great to get the attention of the authorities on Byzantine history online, and to do this I also learned along my journey that this would mean doing tons of research for a an article or for just a simple post and to explain the historical sources as well rather than just searching Wikipedia, and true enough I also applied this method to writing my alternate history stories, meaning that when writing each of the chapters I did more than just search Wikipedia but go through the links linked in Wikipedia, read different articles and books, and go through many channels and podcasts discussing the era to get different versions of it in order to compare them.

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A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities by Anthony Kaldellis

Additionally, whenever I complete a chapter for the alternate history series or a video on my channel, I always promote it by putting its link on my Instagram bio, while also since I post a lot of Byzantine history trivia it then turned out that my Instagram account became a way of retelling the trivia from one of my favorite Byzantine history books which is A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities by Anthony Kaldellis, thus probably my viewers would no longer buy the book but instead just follow my IG to get info on Byzantine trivia from the book. Now the greatest learning I have made here was that success comes with time as for the first few months, progress was quite slow, but through time things turned unexpectedly that from over 300 followers I suddenly reached 1,000, then 2,000, and now I have over 4,000 followers on Instagram and over 900 likes on my Facebook page all in less than a year, thus I would say the trick here is to regularly post interesting information but also to be original, and in my case I do this by using filters for every image I post as a way to authenticate it as mine, as well as a detailed caption on what the image is. Although another important learning is to also know your place and what kind of account or page you are, and in my case, I soon enough came to realize I’m more of a Byzantine history fan page posting popular content that appeals to a wider audience in which I have now been growing more satisfied in being such. Of course, the biggest thing I’ve learned is still to basically enjoy posting and creating and let the inspiration flow as this will lead you to many places, and in my case this passion for Byzantine history and posting made me virtually meet and communicate with people from all over the world who all share this common interest.

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Map of Constantinople in the early 15th century

And now I’ve come to the part of discussing about the rich legacy of the Byzantine Empire and where I can still see it today. Obviously, like as many would say I also see the legacy of Byzantium in the many landmarks built in the Byzantine era still around today including the massive and still intact Hagia Sophia and a lot of other landmarks in Istanbul including the Walls of Constantinople, Forum of Constantine, the cisterns, old monasteries and so much more including monasteries and churches in Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans with their impressive mosaics and very deep looking frescos usually with a dark blue background, and the mosaics and churches of Ravenna and in other parts of Italy as well in which I was truly lucky enough to see.

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Sts. Cyril (left) with the Cyrillic Alphabet and Methodius (right), Byzantine missionaries sent to convert the Slavs by Patriarch Photios in the 9th century

Of course, I do not only see the legacy of Byzantium in the physical form meaning landmarks but rather in the non-material world and this would include the Orthodox faith and the Patriarchate of Constantinople that had been the Church of Byzantium which until this day is still around, while another of the spiritual influences of Byzantium that still live on to this day is the Cyrillic Alphabet the Slavic countries such as Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia still use which was in fact first introduced to them by the Byzantine Greek missionaries St. Cyril and St. Methodius in the 9th century in which the alphabet in fact even gets its name from St. Cyril, although these missionaries did not really invent it as other monks in the Balkans developed it over time in the late 9th century.

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Emperor Justinian I with his Corpus Juris Civilis

Aside from the Orthodox faith and the Cyrillic Alphabet, the Byzantine legacy in the non-physical form can be seen in a much bigger picture even beyond the lands once under Byzantium, and this is in terms of legal systems, as true enough even up to this day the code of laws or Corpus Juris Civilis created by the jurist Tribonian under Emperor Justinian I way back in the 6th century still serves as the basis for legal systems of many modern countries, while on the other hand laws made back then in that code of laws still even apply up to this day, as recently I discovered about a law wherein any body of water cannot be owned, and this law itself dates all the way back to Justinian’s code. Now Justinian’s code had happened to be so influential that many rulers and kingdoms after his time including the Visigoths of Spain, Emperor Stefan IV Dusan of Serbia, and the Ottoman sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent in the 16th century were all inspired by Justinian to make their own code of laws for their empires, thus showing how Byzantium even in their time already influenced others a lot.

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Kievan Rus’ and Scandinavians (Varangians) sail down to Constantinople (Miklagard), 860

Byzantium’s reach true enough was so large, not even in our time but in theirs, as in the 10th and 11th centuries when Byzantium was a major world power, stories of the grandness of their empire reached as far as Scandinavia to the north and Sub-Saharan Africa in the south wherein Scandinavians even referred to Constantinople as Miklagard simply meaning “the city”. Of course, even after the fall of Byzantine Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453, Byzantium itself never really died as many states took in the identity of Byzantium, therefore it remains unclear to tell which state is really Byzantium’s successor. For me, I would say that the Ottoman Empire was Byzantium’s political successor as they took over Constantinople themselves and made it their new capital while also adopting Byzantium’s government systems and architecture, while Italy on the other hand is Byzantium’s spiritual successor mainly because of the Renaissance as after the fall of Constantinople several Byzantine scholars fled to Italy escaping the Ottomans and bringing with them knowledge from Classical Greece and Rome that they have preserved and there introducing a new revival of art and academics which was the Renaissance in which we owe it very much to the Byzantines, and lastly there is Russia as they were the ones to succeed Byzantium in terms of faith as long after the fall of Byzantium it was Russia that became the world’s Orthodox power the way Byzantium was in the Middle Ages.

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Constantine XI, the last emperor with the great rulers of Byzantium’s past above, left to right: Basil II, Manuel I Komnenos, Justinian I, Theodora, Irene of Athens, Zoe Porphyrogenita, art by Gambargin

Now, for many Western minded people including myself, Byzantium should be held with such high respect as even though they were not a Western empire, they still preserved the ideas of Classical Greece and Rome that would help bring about the Renaissance and greatly influence Western thinking up to this day, and unfortunately those who put Byzantium in such a bad light after the 16th century- when the word “byzantine” was for the first time coined- by remembering Byzantium only for corruption and everything despicable were Western scholars, therefore I have to say that these Westerners including the likes of Edward Gibbon and Voltaire who basically slandered Byzantium should be ashamed of themselves as it was Byzantium that preserved the philosophy that influenced their way of thinking! Now at this day, no matter where you are in the world, you can surely see that Byzantium lives on especially in the way countries with their governments and political systems work, most especially when seeing how leaders are backed by the people, army, and aristocrats, including all the political rivalries, and power struggles which definitely still shows that Byzantium does indeed have its relevance all the way up to this day in the distant future.

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Byzantine forks

On the other hand, I would also see Byzantium’s influence not only in large aspects including faith, politics, art, and culture but in the smallest things used in everyday life as well like the simple fork, in which many do not know that the Byzantines did in fact invent it and spread it throughout Europe sometime in the 10th century when a Byzantine princess married the Holy Roman emperor in Germany. For me, the fork is such an important part of life that I literally use it to eat everything including pizza and sandwiches, thus truly I owe a lot to the Byzantines for making life easier that way! Of course, what keeps Byzantium and its history alive today are those who keep the flame of the empire burning as if it had not been extinguished in 1453- as Flavian had said- from renowned scholars and academics to content creators such as myself and many others I know who live to believe Byzantium never really died out and see the legacy of the empire still alive in many forms, in which for my case I do in fact still see Byzantium in many things no matter how very unrelated they are such as in a good and emotional song which brings me back to the Byzantine era.

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The lifetime of the entire Roman civilization- Kingdom, Republic, Empire, and Byzantine Empire (753BC-1453AD)

However, it is still such a shame that Byzantium is not really popular in world history that general history books barely mention it except for Constantinople’s founding by Constantine I in 330, the reign of Justinian I in the 6th century, and the fall of the empire in 1453 while many people either ignore Byzantine history instead believing the Roman Empire had fallen in 476 and after that Europe fell into the dark ages. However, I would also say that I am glad to see young people such as myself, Flavian, and a lot of others being aware of the great history of Byzantium in an age where most young people are rather shallow, narrow-minded, or do not care much about the wider world but just their immediate surroundings, which shows that the rich history and legacy of the Byzantine Empire still does indeed have some relevance and interest with young everyday people rather than just scholars and historians, thus I have to say that I am glad to be part of the movement of young people not only interested in but willing to share the great history of Byzantium to other everyday people whether or not they are familiar with it. Of course, the best way for Byzantine history to get more exposure especially among everyday people is to have a large budget Hollywood movie or a large budget series on the topic, as Byzantine history unlike Ancient Greece, Rome, or Medieval Europe has never even made an appearance in popular films and series, and true enough it does have the potential do so, and that way people would more and more be aware of Byzantium’s existence.  

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The Byzantine Legacy- frescos on a dark blue background
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The Byzantine Legacy- golden mosaics, Hagia Sophia, Constantinople

And lastly before I finish off, I would just like to share a few updates on what I would be doing now that I have finished my 12-part series, and basically since I have completed writing it, of course what I have to share next is this long post you are reading here to conclude the entire series and my thoughts and feeling about it. Now after finishing chapter XII, I do not really have plans of posting anything on this site for a while, as after all I need to take quite a long rest after about 8 months of writing the entire series with barely any breaks and facing so many ups and downs, but of course I will still continue to do more Byzantine themed art and posts on Byzantine trivia for my Instagram account to keep you all updated and to know that I am still out there and still willing to share more Byzantine history content, as after all there are still tons topics that may be of interest to many in their very rich and complex history that I have not yet shared in social media. Definitely I will still continue doing my Byzantine themed art which I would continue to post wherein I also have one planned for the end of the year being a chart of all the Byzantine emperors in which I have already drawn many of them for the 12 chapters of the series, although for the ones I have not drawn yet, I would draw them in the same icon style I used for the series’ character illustrations in order to complete the chart of the emperors. As for my Instagram posts, now that the series is over, most of them will no longer follow the course of Byzantine history but instead be random, meaning that one post would be something about Byzantium in the 6th century, then the next one may be something about the 12th century, although with chapter XII finished my other IG posts would also include spinoff stories discussing characters from the story including non-Byzantines like Vlad the Impaler, Mehmed II, and Skanderbeg, as well as events after 1453 like the last descendants of the Palaiologos Dynasty, the last dynasty of Byzantium’s 15 ruling dynasties. At the same time, my audio epic series “The Last Roman Dynasty” for my Youtube channel discussing Byzantium under the Palaiologos Dynasty still remains unfinished with 2 more episodes left to go, thus before the end of the year my plan is to finish this entire audio epic series. Overall, I would definitely miss writing the alternate history series though possibly before the year ends, I also plan to write one more alternate history chapter, although this one being chapter XIII would basically be a Byzantine spinoff discussing an alternate reality of the Byzantine Empire if it lived up to the 16th century wherein the events that had been altered from chapter XII would spill over to this story. Other than this, I definitely plan to do more interactive articles like this one in the future with interviews or articles in collaboration with someone, which was after all a new thing for my site I only began doing this year. Aside from possibly writing this story, I also have a major project planned in mind once I finish the audio epic series I have also been working on for the entire year, and this major project I have in mind is another Byzantine Lego epic film, as after all I have not filmed a major Lego epic film since War of the Sicilian Vespers in 2020, therefore it would be such a pleasure to do another large-scale Byzantine era Lego epic after such a long time as a comeback film. Now for this upcoming Lego epic, the plot I have in mind for it would be one of the 12 chapters of my series, and out of the 12 chapters I am for now deciding whether it would be the story of chapter II or that of chapter IX of the series that would be made into this film, as after all these were the two most enjoyable chapters in the series for me, while it is also these two that I believe have the potential to be made into and are the most practical ones in story to be made into a homemade Lego film for my channel No Budget Films that is mainly a channel of homemade Lego films telling an epic story set in history. Now aside from more Byzantine themed artworks, the possible epilogue story to the 12-part series, and the upcoming Lego film, the even much bigger thing I have in mind in the future related to my Byzantine history interest is going to be a business I aim to launch next year on a Byzantine themed board game and a deck of cards considering that I study a business course, though I still have to organize my thoughts and plans on this. As for now, with the 12-part series completed what is to happen next would be a trip to New York and Washington D.C. wherein I will continue my Byzantine journey seeing the Byzantine collections there including the Dumbarton Oaks collection of Byzantine seals and coins in Washington D.C. Now that I have completed the series, I have also come to realize that my career path in Byzantine history is that I am more of a generalist as I basically share information not just in a specific part of Byzantine history, or of a certain emperor, or on a certain part of Byzantine culture, but on the entire 1,1100-year history of Byzantium and everything about it, therefore I shall stick to this career path in Byzantine history. Of course, with the series over, I definitely have much higher ambitions and goals for my Byzantine journey and this would include getting more exposure and publicity worldwide, as well as also writing an article for a Byzantine history site, and getting one of my artworks featured by another site, but of course the best thing to do is still to share good information and enjoy doing it. Lastly, before I completely finish off, I would want to say that this Byzantine career I have launched only this year no matter how tiring it was still gave me a great sense of purpose and direction, as without it I would not know where I would be, therefore I would like to thank all those who share the content I made in any social media platform, those who have also recommended my IG account to the others as this truly helped in growing my account in terms of likes and followers, and of course I would like to thank all my fans and viewers whether on Instagram, Facebook, or in this site for showing some support. After all, it all turned out this Byzantine journey of mine was very much like a dream coming true like that of the Byzantine emperors of the past who began out as nothing and rose up the ranks, as in my journey over the months as well, the same can be said. Now, this is all for this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it, this is Powee Celdran, the Byzantine Time Traveler, thank you all for reading and showing your appreciation!   

 

 

Byzantine Alternate History Chapter I- Roman Victory over the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople, 378

Posted by Powee Celdran

Disclaimer: Although this is a work of fiction, it is largely based on true events and characters. It seeks alter the course of actual events that transpired in the 4th century AD.

So intense was Valentinian’s wrath, he burst a blood vessel in his brain. His legacy would be that of the last strong western Augustus to rule an empire at peace, however the true catastrophe was yet to come.” -Dovahhatty, Unbiased History: Rome XVII- Imperial Wrath

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Welcome to the Byzantine Alternate History series by the Byzantium Blogger! This article will be the first part of an article series I will be making this year featuring a scenario in Byzantine history and discussing an alternative outcome to it, basically a what if in Byzantine history. For this series, I will come up with 12 different what if stories in Byzantine history featuring one per century in its 1,100-year existence and I will start this series off with the 4th century, the same century where the story of the Eastern Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire begins. To give you all an idea of what this new project of mine is, I am basically going to experiment on rewriting events in Byzantine history, especially major turning points to see how different their history will turn out to be if a particular event went the opposite direction from what actually happened in real history. In this 12-part series I will be writing some articles alone, and some others with other Byzantine history fans like myself, though for this one it will just be myself writing it. Take note here that each article in this series will be a stand-alone piece and will have no continuity with each other. This one being the first chapter of a 12-part series will be featuring the Gothic War from 376-382 and the devastating defeat of the Eastern Roman army to the massive numbers of the invading Goths at the Battle of Adrianople in 378 which resulted in the settlement of the Gothic tribes within Roman territory beginning the gradual collapse of the Western half of the Roman Empire ending with the fall of the west in 476 due to many more conflicts with the Goths and other barbarians following the Roman defeat in 378. Now what if the story of the Gothic War went the other way around wherein the Romans of the combined Eastern and Western Empires at that time won and defeated the Goths? Will this literally change the course of history?

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Flag of the Byzantine Empire

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Note: Since the story is set in the 4th century before the fall of Western Rome (476), Byzantine characters will be referred to as Romans not Byzantines.

(Photo Credits: The Late Roman Group)

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Map of all Barbarian invasions into the Roman Empire, 100-500AD

In the long history of Rome, the Romans faced many defeats such as to the Parthian Persians at Carrhae in 53BC and to the Germanic Tribes at Teutoburg Forest in 9AD but these defeats were only shocking moments that weakened the strength and pride of their superior military power and not devastating enough to actually result in the downfall of the Roman civilization the way the Battle of Adrianople in 378 did. In real history, we know that in 375, Valentinian I, the last strong and great emperor of the western half of the Roman Empire died out of his own anger after failing to negotiate with invading Germanic tribes, and the following year after his death, Gothic hordes numbering up to 200,000 suddenly invaded the Roman border of the Danube River which was part of the eastern half of the Roman Empire ruled by Valentinian I’s younger brother Valens, as this multitude of Goths were seeking for asylum within Roman territory fleeing their homeland in Eastern Europe from a mysterious and deadly enemy that had the power to destroy civilization coming from the east, which were the Huns of Central Asia. The Gothic hordes of the Thervingi and Greuthungi tribes were granted asylum in the Eastern Roman Empire but their numbers proved too impossible for the Roman authorities to feed leading the Goths to rebel and for the empire to declare war on them eventually culminating in the catastrophic Battle of Adrianople on August 9, 378 not so far away from the Eastern Roman Empire’s capital Constantinople wherein the Gothic army severely outnumbered the Roman army resulting in the death of the Eastern Roman emperor Valens in battle. Following Valens’ death and the Roman defeat, the Goths were free to roam around the empire raiding it until they were eventually subdued by the new eastern emperor Theodosius I, who however did not literally defeat the Goths and send them back to their homeland in the north but instead made a deal with them that had the Goths settled in the Roman Empire as federate subjects, but eventually this plan would not work out too well as this settlement of the Goths into the Roman Empire allowed the Goths and later other barbarian settlers from beyond the empire the opportunity to rebel against Rome and establish their own independent kingdoms within the empire, thus leading to the collapse of at least the Western Roman Empire. On the other hand, sending the Goths back to their homeland in Eastern Europe was out of the question since the Huns have already been constantly making raids into it and the Goths had no such power to stand against them, but if united with the Romans they possibly would; and true enough the Goths that had settled in Roman Gaul becoming the Visigoths would actually one day join forces a century later in 451 when the Huns finally came to the point of invading the Western Roman Empire and with the combined forces of Romans and Goths, the Huns were weakened and eventually driven away, although this is totally different story for another time. Though the Gothic War with Rome beginning 376 had some positive outcomes like when the Goths eventually joined forces with the Romans against the Huns defeating them in 451 but on the negative side, the settlement of the Goths in the empire after 382 caused the Western Roman Empire to slowly slip away to the control of the growing power of the Goths who would quickly transform from tribes to kingdoms such as that of the Visigoths and Ostrogoths.

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Flag of the Western (red) and Eastern (purple) Roman Empires combined
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Map of the Gothic War in the Balkans, 376-382
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Guide to the late Roman army’s structure; this article contains a lot of terms of late Roman army units, art by myself.

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The Fall of Western and Eastern Rome Compared

Gothic War Related Videos:

Unbiased History: Rome XVII- Imperial Wrath (Dovahhatty)

Battle of Adrianople 378- Roman-Gothic War Documentary (Kings and Generals)

Ranking the Emperors of the Valentinian Dynasty (Eastern Roman History)


What inspired me to do an article about the Gothic War out of all events in the 4th century was my favorite Youtube channel on Roman history Dovahhatty in Episode XVII of his Unbiased History of Rome series entitled Imperial Wrath wherein Valentinian I’s death caused by his own anger in 375 was shown, and here Dovahhatty narrates saying that after Valentinian’s death, “the true catastrophe was yet to come”. This part here made me come to think that if Valentinian had survived, would this help in preventing the catastrophe to come? And so now I have come up with a story revolving this what if scenario. Now this article will be focused on the what if scenario wherein the Goths were defeated by the Romans in 378 at Adrianople and sent back to their homeland. It will also dive into other possible scenarios that could alter the course of history in the late 4th century such as if the western emperor Valentinian I lived after 375 and did not die out of his own anger, therefore he would be around to help his eastern co-emperor and younger brother Valens in the east the moment the Goths arrived in 376 whereas in real history, with Valentinian I dead, the west was passed on to his young son Gratian, who still training to be a stronger emperor was late to send reinforcements to help his uncle in the east. Now if Valentinian I who was known to be a strong military emperor with a great anger towards the barbarian enemies of Rome was still alive to help Valens in the east against the Goths, would this result in the Roman Empire actually being spared from the large-scale threat of the Goths? On the story of this Gothic War however, there are not much primary sources from the era except for the Roman historian and former soldier Ammianus Marcellinus who writes about the conflict in detail but only from the Roman perspective. In this article, I will do my best not just to tell the story of this Gothic War from the Roman perspective of the co-emperors Valentinian I and Valens but also from the side of the Goths and their leaders Fritgern, Alatheus, and Saphrax and in addition, I will explore and experiment on possible scenarios in this conflict which would be that what if the Gothic forces of the Thervingi (later Visigoths) and Greuthungi (later Ostrogoths) were actually more united and had more of an objective rather than being just raiders looking for land and wealth and instead being fully committed to destroying Roman civilization, which means that the Goths would have to take a Roman hostage which would be no other than the future emperor Theodosius I- in real history- as in order for the Goths to be able to beat the Romans they would need someone to help them understand Rome’s fighting techniques, therefore making Theodosius betray Rome and take the side of the Goths. This article too will include one fictional character fused into the historical setting of the Gothic War which will be a female Goth leader and warrior named Valdis, and I would do the same as well in blending in a fictional character for the following parts of my series as this new series I am doing aside from being an alternate history series will also be a historical fan fiction wherein I would experiment by exploring on and playing around with the stories of some existing historical characters and adding in some fictional elements and events in history that could have happened but we’ve never seen happen, and in this case it would be Valentinian I and Valens joining forces in battle which could be vital in helping the Romans win against the Goths as another reason for the Roman defeat was because of the disunity between the eastern and western halves of their empire which came to see themselves as competitors wherein they were actually one empire despite each half having its own emperor. This story will then end discussing the possible outcomes of the Romans winning the Battle of Adrianople and how the empire would be different if the Gothic threat was dealt with. The 4th century in which this story is set in was a very crucial time for the Roman Empire being a time of religious debates and controversy as it saw Christianity rising while at the same time it faced major waves of barbarian invasions and migrations from the north and a chronic war with their mortal enemy, the Sassanid Empire in the east but since the main focus of this story will be about the Gothic War in the late 4th century, it will focus less on the happenings all over the empire, and rather more the subject of battles and warfare of this era and on this particular conflict. Basically, this first chapter fo this series will be basically more or less a war epic more focused on the warfare of this time rather than the complex political and religious situation this age- the 4th century- was known for. On the other hand, I would also like to thank the artists (Amelianvs, Giuseppe Rava, HistoryGold777, and Roman Emperors) whose works I’ve chosen to add into this story to add more visuals to its 4th century setting in the distant past.


The Leading Characters:

Valentinian I the Great- Western Roman emperor

Valens- Eastern Roman emperor and brother of Valentinian I   

Fritigern- Chieftain of the Thervingi Goths

Gratian- Western Roman co-emperor and son of Valentinian I  

Theodosius the Elder- Western Roman general

Theodosius the Younger- Eastern Roman general and son of Theodosius the Elder

Athanaric- Rival Thervingi Goth chieftain of Fritigern

Alatheus- Co-Chieftain of the Greuthungi Goths

Saphrax- Co-Chieftain of the Greuthungi Goths

*Valdis- Greuthungi Goth leader (fictional character)

Alavivus- Thervingi Goth leader

Lupicinus- Eastern Roman general in Moesia

Maximus- 2nd in command to Lupicinus  

Valentinian II- Son of Valentinian I and future co-emperor

Justina- Western Roman empress, 2nd wife of Valentinian I

Flavius Merobaudes- Western Roman general  

Richomeres- Western Roman general

Sebastianus- Eastern Roman general

Profuturus- Eastern Roman general

Trajan- Eastern Roman general

Flavius Bauto- Western Roman commander

Arbogast- Western Roman Comitatus soldier

Flavius Stilicho- Western Roman Comitatus soldier  

Flavius Anthemius- Eastern Roman Comitatus soldier  

Sueridus- Thervingi Goth warrior

Colias- Thervingi Goth warrior  

*Genseric- Chieftain of the Quadi (real character but unnamed, therefore I gave his name) 

Character Images Below

Background Guide: Western Roman characters (red), Eastern Roman characters (yellow), Thervingi Goths (blue), Greuthungi Goths (red orange), Quadi (green).


The Background- The Real History

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In the 4th century, the Roman Empire despite coming out of a long 50-year period of crisis- the Crisis of the 3rd Century (235-285)- still covered a vast amount of territory north to south from Britain to Egypt and west to east from Portugal to the Caucasus Mountains but with a territory so large, this meant that enemies would be attacking from all sides as in the east, the Roman Empire shared a border with a powerful hostile neighbor, the Sassanid Persian Empire, to the north of the empire were several Germanic tribes including the Goths who at this time have been settling in Eastern Europe and have been long-time enemies with the Romans since the mid-3rd century but far to the northeast, a mysterious and deadly power was expanding and coming closer and closer to the Roman Empire. This rapidly expanding power were the Huns, an unknown warlike race of people from deep within Central Asia that were expanding westwards into Europe displacing several people that settled there such as the Gothic tribes that settled in what is today’s Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland. The Roman Empire had not yet felt the presence of the Hunnish threat of the east, but instead they felt it in waves coming in the form of several invasions of barbarian Germanic tribes through the empire’s Rhine and Danube River borders. The 4th century was a crucial time of change for the Roman Empire as it was here when the Roman Empire was first divided into 4 quarters with their own emperors in what was known as the Tetrarchy which eventually led to a series of civil wars between its divisions until these civil wars were put to an end and the divisions united again as one empire by Emperor Constantine I the Great (r. 306-337) in 324.

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Emperor Constantine I the Great (r. 306-337), founder of Constantinople

At the same time, it was also in Constantine I’s reign that Imperial Rome went through a very major transition which was the rise of the Christian religion as under Constantine I’s Edict of Milan in 313, the Christian faith was now finally no longer outlawed but tolerated and practiced all over the empire, and true enough it had grown so fast to become the dominant religion of the empire even though just some years earlier, Christians under the co-emperors Diocletian (r. 284-305) and Galerius (r. 293-311) of the Tetrarchy were severely persecuted. Constantine I also had the legacy of organizing the Council of Nicaea in 325 which established the official statement of beliefs for the Christian religion known as the Nicene Creed and in 330, Constantine I too rebuilt the port town of Byzantium in the European side of the narrow Bosporus Strait between Europe and Asia- founded by the Ancient Greek hero Byzas of Megara in the 7th century BC- into the Roman Empire’s new capital renaming it Nova Roma or “New Rome”, although his people stuck with calling it Constantinople meaning “Constantine’s city” as it was in only 6 years (324-330) transformed by Constantine I from a small port town to an imperial metropolis.

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Emperor Constantine I the Great lays the foundations of Rome’s new capital Constantinople

Now the old capital Rome which was founded back in 753BC, ever since the second half of the 3rd century was no longer in use as the empire’s capital due to its distance from the borders where all the action was, and even though Rome had great historical value, its location was not strategic as well. While moving the capital east to Constantinople, Constantine I too had relocated many important families from the Roman Senate in Rome to Constantinople as well, together too with the best minds from Rome to the east. Constantine I’s move to the east was mostly due to the reason that there was more trade opportunities, riches, and purpose of being in the east, though also because Constantine having some Greek origins felt the Roman world needed to shift its attention east, also because a lot of Rome’s traditions and beliefs were influenced by the Greeks.

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Emperor Constantine I the Great, art by HistoryGold777

Other than that, Constantine had also introduced a new standard gold currency for the empire known as the Solidus, which would be the type of coin the Romans from here on would be using, while he also finalized the restructuring of the Roman army from entire legions consisting of thousands of men to more legions consisting of less men, and in his lifetime he fought many wars against both imperial rivals or foreign invaders and never lost any battles, but no matter how great he was, he was not able to completely solve the division in the Christian Church that had been growing in his time and although he was able to establish the official creed for Christianity and declare the other division known as Arianism that opposed the creed as heresy, the Arian division of Christianity still thrived and it was only at his death in 337 that Constantine was actually baptized as a Christian and ironically by an Arian bishop, therefore making him be baptized as an Arian Christian. At Constantine I’s death, the Roman Empire was once again divided and this time into 3 among his 3 sons Constantine II the eldest taking the westernmost provinces of Gaul, Hispania, and Britain; the youngest one Constans I taking Italy, Illyria, Pannonia, and most of North Africa; while the middle son and most able ruler of the 3, Constantius II took the entire eastern half of the empire which was based in Constantinople, the new capital. The 3 brothers began their reign after their father’s funeral by putting their uncles which were Constantine I’s brothers and their sons which were their cousins to death in an event known as the “Massacre of the Princes” so that the reign of the sons of Constantine would be unchallenged, however only 3 cousins were spared due to their young age. The 3 brothers however would end up in conflict with each other and in 340, the eldest brother Constantine II feeling that as the eldest he deserved the largest piece of territory demanded the lands of his youngest brother Constans I, and when Constans refused, Constantine II invaded Italy but was killed in battle against Constans’ forces thus all of the late Constantine II’s lands were passed on to his youngest brother but in 350, a division of Constans I’s army led by the general Magnentius revolted and killed Constans leaving Constantius II to deal with the usurper Magnentius resulting in a war lasting for 3 more years. Constantius II eventually defeated the usurper Magnentius in 353 and now ruled the entire Roman Empire alone.

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Emperor Constantius II (r. 337-361)

Constantius II too happened to be an Arian Christian, and the Arians though still believing in the Christian faith denied the divinity of Christ believing that the Father was more superior to the Son, while Nicene Christianity believed that both the Father and Son were God. However, it was not only in the Roman Empire where the Arian heresy was spreading among the people as at the same time as Constantine I and his son Constantius II ruled the empire, beyond the Danube borders in Eastern Europe, a Greek priest from Roman Asia Minor of the Arian Christian faith named Ulfilas who was taken as a captive by the Goths at a young age and raised as a Goth spread Arian Christianity among the Goths in the lands of Eastern Europe beyond the empire’s borders. In the process of converting the Goths to Arian Christianity, Ulfilas knowing the Goths’ language translated the Bible from Greek into it as well as developing the Gothic alphabet based on the Greek one and at some point later on, Ulfilas returned to the Roman Empire to be ordained as an Arian bishop by Eusebius of Nicomedia, the same Arian bishop that baptized Constantine I in 337. With Ulfilas as a bishop, Arian Christianity continued spreading among the Goths, but a large number of Goths still stuck to their old Pagan religion and a certain chieftain of the Thervingi Goths from today’s Romania named Athanaric who was a devout Pagan began persecuting his Christian subjects, and here Ulfilas would flee from the Gothic lands and disappear from history never to be mentioned again.

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Map of the Roman Tetrarchy, 293-324
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Map of the Roman Empire reunited under Constantine I, 337
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The Roman Empire divided among Constantine I’s sons Constantine II, Constans I, and Constantius II following Constantine I’s death, 337
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Map of the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire
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Ulfilas spreads Arian Christianity among the Goths, 4th century

Back in the Roman Empire, during the reign of Constantius II (337-361), a young soldier named Valentinian (born Flavius Valentinianus), a native of Roman Pannonia (today’s Croatia) rose up the ranks first in the imperial bodyguard unit of Constantius II in Constantinople and later in the Roman field army of the west, where in 355 he served in the army of Constantius II’s western Caesar or junior emperor which was his young cousin Julian who was one of the 3 spared cousins and the son of Constantine I’s half-brother Julius Constantius– who was killed by Constantius II’s orders in 337- in defending the border of the Rhine River from the invading Germanic Alemanni tribes, however at some point in 355, Valentinian was falsely accused of being responsible for the Romans’ defeat to the Alemanni which resulted in him being dismissed from the army by the emperor Constantius himself. Now speaking of Valentinian’s background, he originated in the town of Cibalae in Southern Roman Pannonia born on July 3, 321 during the reign of Constantine I and Valentinian’s father was a Roman-Illyrian soldier of low birth named Gratian the Elder who rose up the ranks from a common soldier to a high-ranking officer under Constantine I and his son Constans I (r. 337-350), the emperor of the middle portion of the empire then, and when climbing up the ranks earlier, Gratian was able to purchase an estate in Pannonia (today’s Croatia, Serbia, and Hungary) where his sons Valentinian and Valens (Flavius Valens)- born in 328- grew up and growing up, both Valentinian and Valens were educated not only in civil and military matters but in painting and sculpting as well but when growing up in Pannonia, it was Valentinian that was deeply bothered by how exposed their area was to barbarian invasions considering that the province of Pannonia was at the frontier of the Roman Empire along the Danube and due to his frustration towards the constant threat of barbarian invasions into Roman Pannonia, Valentinian decided to join the army at a young age in the late 330s in order to fight the barbarians that deeply bothered him and nothing would define Valentinian more than his anger towards barbarians which explains why he had such a hot and violent temper to whoever provoked him. Between 355 and 357, when Valentinian was dismissed from the army, he returned to Pannonia but this time retired to his new family estate in Sirmium (today’s Serbia) where he eventually married Marina Severa and in 359 when he was back in the army- this time serving as a cavalry commander of the elite imperial guard force of the Palatini in Gaul again under the Caesar Julian- Valentinian’s son Gratian named after Valentinian’s father was born. In 360, the Caesar Julian in Gaul who was popular with his troops was declared Augustus or senior emperor by his army in Lutetia (today’s Paris) in opposition to the reigning Augustus in the east Constantius II, thus signalling a declaration of civil war but in 361 before Constantius could meet Julian in battle, he died in Cilicia (Southern Asia Minor) of a sickness at age 44 declaring his cousin Julian, his last male relative as his successor and following Constantius’ death, Julian was the sole ruler of the Roman Empire setting himself up in Constantinople as he had already marched east with Valentinian part of his army.

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Julian crowned Augustus in Paris, 360

Part of Julian’s Palatini or elite imperial guard force by the time he became the sole Augustus in 361 other than Valentinian was Valentinian’s younger brother Valens and another Roman-Illyrian named Jovian. Though the emperor Julian as a highly learned philosopher was a Pagan that renounced Christianity in which he was born into, making himself be known as “the Apostate”, he also tolerated Christians making sure no religion was favored over the other and so to show this, both Jovian and Valentinian who were Nicene Christians were appointed to high military positions. Julian’s reign however lasted for less than 2 years as in 363, he led a large military campaign against the Sassanid Persian Empire in the east intended to defeat Persia and joining Julian were both Jovian and Valentinian in his elite forces though Julian split the army with his maternal cousin Procopius, but when Julian arrived at the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon (today’s Iraq), Procopius did not and when waiting for Procopius’ men to arrive, Julian’s army was ambushed by the Sassanids and having no time to put on his armor, Julian rode into battle and was suddenly and mysteriously impaled by a flying spear from a Persian soldier and mortally wounded, Julian died soon enough on June 26, 363 saying that the Christian faith has won, thus his dream to return the empire to its Pagan past had failed.

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Emperor Julian (r. 361-363) before his death by a flying spear, art by Amelianvs

As Julian died suddenly in battle without naming an heir, the army being confused with no emperor in place decided to elect Jovian who was the imperial guard’s commander as their next emperor as being in this position made him the closest person to Julian. Procopius’ army though still did not arrive and Jovian feeling unready to continue the fight against the Sassanids chose to buy time and wait for Procopius to arrive and continue the war but Procopius never arrived so he was left with no choice but to agree to a humiliating peace with the Sassanid Persian emperor or Shah Shapur II who was a long-time enemy of Rome since Constantine I’s reign and this peace Jovian signed with Shapur demanded that the defeated Romans surrendered all the lands they conquered from the Sassanids in the past years back to the Sassanids, including all of Northern Mesopotamia and Southern Armenia in exchange for the Romans to return home unharmed.

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Shah Shapur II of the Sassanid Empire (r. 309-379)

Jovian agreed to surrender these lands but also successfully requested a condition for this agreement that all Christians in these areas taken back by the Sassanids would be allowed to return to Roman lands and when Jovian led the retreat back to the empire, this was the only time he met up with Procopius again and as for Shapur II, he honored the terms and allowed the Romans to return home even if he actually planned of killing every last man in the Roman army but the eastern border of Shapur’s massive empire was also threatened by the same Huns that threatened the Goths in the north, and if Shapur continued the war against the Romans, he would not have enough men to send to the east to fight off the Huns.

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Emperor Jovian (r. 363-364)

Jovian though returning alive to the empire was highly mocked by the people of Antioch with offensive graffiti targeted at him for having no claim to the throne as a common soldier, though Jovian returned to the Christians their privileges taken away from them by Julian, but Jovian too did not last long in power and after Antioch on the return trip to Constantinople, he appointed Valentinian to be in charge of a fort in Asia Minor and charged a commander of Frankish origin named Flavius Merobaudes with burying Julian’s body back at Constantinople but before making it back to Constantinople, Jovian died in his sleep in the town of Dadastana in Asia Minor in February of 364 of carbon monoxide poisoning as he slept in a room with newly painted walls with a lit brazier so close to the walls that it released the walls’ toxic fumes suffocating him. With Jovian dead, the army again had to look for a replacement to fill in the power vacuum and being the nearest most competent general, Valentinian was elected by the army as the new emperor.

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Map of Julian’s Sassanid Campaign, 363
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Romans against Sassanid Persians in Julian’s campaign of 363, art by Amelianvs 

When arriving back in Constantinople, Valentinian I at age 43 accepted the acclamation of emperor but knowing he could not rule the entire empire alone and to prevent further succession crisis, Valentinian one month later named his younger brother Valens who was 36 at that time and still in the imperial guard in Constantinople as his eastern co-Augustus- also so that Valens would not rebel one day for being left out- and it was already tradition at this time that the Roman Empire was to be divided ever since Emperor Diocletian’s division between east and west in 286. Although the west and east had different emperors with Valentinian and Valens respectively, no matter how much both halves would see each other as competitors, it was still one empire with the same armies and military structure, and generals in the west could be assigned to provinces in the eastern half and vice-versa, while people could still travel the whole empire without any restrictions.

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Coin of co-emperors Valentinian I (left) and Valens (right)

Though both brothers Valentinian and Valens were close to each other, they still had many differences, most notably it was that the older brother Valentinian was a stronger military man who was impulsive by nature with a bad temper and believed that all barbarian enemies of Rome could not be reasoned with and therefore have to pay in blood, while Valens was good and friendly in nature but at the same time tough but lacking the impulse his older brother had making him not quick to decide in a critical moment; other than that their biggest differences was that they were of the 2 rival branches of Christianity as Valentinian was a Nicene Christian and Valens was an Arian. When both brothers became co-emperors, this would be the last time they would see each other in person, at least for the meantime and in 365, Valentinian had already made Mediolanum (Milan)- as done usually by previous emperors- as his capital for the west where he ruled as the empire’s more senior emperor whereas Valens stayed in Constantinople. However just one year into power, Valens’ indecisive personality would already show and this happened in 365 when the former emperor Julian’s maternal cousin Procopius who led the other division in the Persian campaign 2 years earlier came out of nowhere, rebelled against Valens who was not present in Constantinople at this time, and declared himself emperor of the east taking over Constantinople itself with his claim of being the last relative of the Constantinian Dynasty but not in blood as he was only related to Julian in the latter’s mother’s side, though Procopius also claimed that Julian before leading the campaign secretly named him his successor in case Julian died.

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Procopius proclaimed Eastern Roman emperor in 365, art by Amelianvs

For Valens who was in Asia Minor at the time of Procopius’ rebellion, he took an entire year to crush it as the first army he sent to Thrace was easily defeated by Procopius’ forces and Valens unsure of what to do sent a letter asking for help from his brother who thought of helping but word of the Alemanni Germanic tribes raiding the Rhine border in Gaul forced Valentinian to focus on his half of the empire first before helping his brother. Valentinian though did not arrive to help his brother in the east making Valens already come to the point of contemplating abdication and even suicide when the armies in Western Asia Minor supported Procopius but a year later (366), he was at least was able to defeat Procopius’ forces and order Procopius’ execution but what turned out to be worse than Procopius’ rebellion was that Procopius allied himself with the Goths beyond the Danube river, though the Goths did not arrive in time to help him, instead they came late and crossed the Danube border and pillaged their way through Thrace a year after Procopius’ death (367).

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Emperor Valens and the Gothic king Athanaric settle peace at the Danube, 369

Valens marched north from Constantinople and was able to push back the Gothic horde of 30,000 back to the Danube forcing the Goths led by their leader Ermanaric to surrender, although Valentinian in the west not trusting the Goths sent a letter to Valens telling him to not accept their surrender and declare war as Valentinian could see the Goths would become a bigger menace one day if they were not dealt with by war so Valens with his army crossed the Danube into Gothic territory, again beating the Goths and forcing them to flee further north. The conflict ended in 369 when Valens and the other Gothic leader which was the same Athanaric mentioned earlier signed a peace treaty at a boat in the middle of the Danube.

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Emperor Valentinian I the Great (center) with his Palatini legions, art by Amelianvs
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The Roman Empire divided between Valentinian I in the west (purple) and Valens in the east (pink), 364
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Constantinople, new capital of the Roman Empire’s eastern half since 330

As for Valentinian I in the west, he was busy doing what he did best, protecting the empire from barbarian invasions on all sides but the worst that was to happen for Valentinian was in Britain in 367 as the previous wars in the past years weakened Roman rule in Britain making Roman traitors there conspire with the Picts, Hibernians, Franks, and a new enemy being the Saxons of Germania to invade Britain on all sides and loot everything they find in exchange for sharing the looted wealth with the Roman traitors. Between 367 and 368, the Picts invaded Roman Britannia from the north (Scotland) when the traitors guarding Hadrian’s Wall at the border of Roman territory with the land of the Picts up north were bribed by them, the Hibernians of Ireland then invaded by sea from the west, and the Saxons and Franks invaded by sea from the east coming from Northern Germany and by the time Valentinian was informed of the situation in Britain, the Romans had already almost lost all of the island but Valentinian would not let it happen so he sent his best general, Count Theodosius the Elder, a native of Roman Spain to retake Britain and joining Count Theodosius was his son, Theodosius the Younger who was training to be a general as well under his father.

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Map of the Great Conspiracy barbarian invasion of Roman Britain, 367

After sailing from Gaul, Theodosius the Elder and his army arriving in Britain set themselves up in Londinium (London) and from there, Theodosius the Elder in one swift campaign was able to take back the whole island and drive away, arrest, and execute all the conspirators who planned to make Roman Britannia fall and once the conflict in Britain known as the “Great Conspiracy” was solved, Count Theodosius returned the wealth stolen by the raiders back to their owners and Northern Britannia was renamed Valentia in honor of Valentinian. Valentinian at this time was more in Trier than in he was in Milan as it was closer to his objective in fighting off barbarian raids in the Rhine border and in 368, Valentinian himself led an army into the heartland of Germania to battle the Alemanni wherein he was successful and to keep the Alemanni tribes away, he ordered Roman forts built across the Rhine in the Alemanni’s territory which of course angered the Alemanni people making them want to negotiate with Valentinian who refused which made them destroy the forts which in return made him even angrier. With the Alemanni attacking the Rhine border again, Valentinian sent word to the Alemanni’s mortal enemy, the Burgundians to attack the Alemanni but the Burgundians too asked for negotiations with Valentinian to give them land in exchange for helping him, but Valentinian again not wanting to negotiate with barbarians refused and so the Burgundians did not do as they were told, instead it was left to Theodosius the Elder to invade the lands of the Alemanni which he did by passing through Raetia (Southwest Germany).

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4th century Roman Mediolanum (Milan), capital of the western empire

Meanwhile in 370, Valentinian’s wife the empress Marina Severa and mother of their son and heir Gratian who happened to be a bisexual woman was attracted to another woman who she had been acquainted with while at the baths in Milan, this woman was Justina, a relative of the late emperor Julian and Marina was greatly struck with her beauty due to see her full physique while bathing, that Marina asked her husband to make polygamy legal for him to marry Justina in order for Marina to be close to her. Polygamy was definitely illegal in the Roman Empire even before Christianity became dominant and even more so with Christianity now having a major role in the empire, but soon enough Marina died and Valentinian married Justina as wished by Marina, and with Justina Valentinian had another son named Valentinian II and after him 2 more daughters while Gratian as the imperial heir was mostly based in Trier the whole time. Though the threats to Valentinian’s western empire did not only come from the Germanic tribes as in 372, a Roman client Berber prince in Numidia (North Africa) named Firmus rebelled against the corrupt Roman governor there and responding to this, Valentinian sent Count Theodosius again who was in Germania south to North Africa to deal with the rebellion and having experience in crushing revolts as he did in Britannia during the Great Conspiracy, Count Theodosius succeeded in North Africa by arresting the corrupt governor, defeating the rebellion, and executing Firmus.

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Sample Roman fort build across the Danube border

In 373, as Valentinian in the west and Valens in the east did the same in building forts beyond Roman borders, more Germanic tribes across the Danube including the Quadi were provoked to attack the empire and this time the Quadi allied with the Sarmatian hordes and raided into Roman Pannonia where the 2 Roman legions sent to quell the invasion failed to cooperate with each other making the Sarmatians rout them. In 374, to the south of Pannonia another Sarmatian horde with their Quadi allies broke through the eastern half’s Danube border into the province of Moesia (Serbia) but this invasion was quickly dealt with and repelled by the Dux or general of the army there, Count Theodosius’ son Theodosius the Younger now a general after gaining experience in Britain years earlier, but after such hard work in defending Moesia, Theodosius the Younger was displeased as he was not given any honors or credit by either Valentinian or Valens for his achievement. When hearing that the barbarian conflict shifted from the Rhine to the Danube, Valentinian set out from Trier to the Danube leaving Gratian in Trier and at this time appointed the same half-Frankish officer Merobaudes that buried Julian years ago to the rank of Magister Peditum or top commander of the infantry. In the Danube, Valentinian continued the war against the Quadi and Sarmatians but soon saw he had enough of war so he finally agreed for a peace negotiation meeting with the Quadi.

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Germanic Quadi tribe

On November 17, 375 the Quadi leaders led by a certain Genseric– not a fictional character but since he is unnamed, I gave him his name for this story- met Valentinian at his camp in Brigetio (in today’s Hungary) along the Danube wherein it was agreed that the Quadi would be allowed to leave in peace if they supplied young recruits into the Roman army, however when the Quadi leaders met with Valentinian personally, the leaders told Valentinian the whole truth that they attacked the Danube all because they were provoked by the fortresses Valentinian had built, and this negotiation with the Quadi only made Valentinian grow more and more angry especially since they were insulting him and knowing that Valentinian would not stop harassing them by putting military presence in their lands, the Quadi leaders told it straight to Valentinian’s face that they would refuse the terms of the treaty. The attitude of the Quadi however only fuelled Valentinian’s anger more as for his whole life, he had had enough of the barbarians ever since growing in Pannonia, fighting wars with Julian against the barbarians, and constantly defending Rome from them in his reign. The Quadi and the Palatini bodyguards of Valentinian could see how intense his anger was that his face was turning red and was already coming so close to having a fatal seizure. Before this burst of anger could end his life by popping a blood vessel in his brain, his Palatini guards rushed to him and stopped him from exploding, therefore Valentinian fell to the ground almost unconscious and here is where the course of history is altered.

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Picts invade Roman Britain in the Great Conspiracy, 367
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Soldiers in a late Roman era fort

The Gothic War (375-378)

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In reality, what we know is that after getting so enraged after negotiating with the Quadi, Valentinian gave in to his anger and died after bursting a blood vessel in his brain but in this story, let’s say the Palatini guards came in time to stop him from giving in completely to his anger. Now after the Palatini came to his aid, Valentinian fell into the ground almost unconscious due to his fit of rage and the Quadi leaders including Genseric meanwhile who were still in the fort’s boardroom saw for themselves the full wrath of Valentinian which was enough to scare them to submission, therefore they finally agreed with the peace terms and decided to flee back to their homeland or suffer severe consequences. Valentinian luckily had a doctor with him in his camp at Brigetio who advised Valentinian to get some rest as that fit of anger almost killed him while in the next day, the Quadi leaders have left ordering their men to abandon their invasion and true enough the threat of the Quadi and their Sarmatian allies had vanished. As Valentinian used the next few weeks to rest and calm himself down in his own quarters at the fort by taking time to cool down by fishing and exploring the woods and not attending meetings with his commanders, his doctor also told him to save his rage for another time when it is most needed as at this point the whole empire, both east and west really depended on Valentinian as if he died, his son Gratian was too young and unprepared to rule effectively and Valens in the east could not be able to rule such a massive empire alone. Valentinian then came to realize that he shouldn’t have gave in fully to his anger as he could sense that there would be more wars to come not just in his part of the empire but in Valens’ east, and Valentinian knew that his younger brother was not tough enough the way he was to face a full scale war and if Valentinian was dead, Valens would be helpless.

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Gratian, son and co-emperor of Valentinian I

Now in reality, with Valentinian’s death in 375, this created something like a power vacuum in the west as Gratian though already an Augustus and not Caesar was not overall experienced due to his young age so the Magister Peditum Merobaudes exploited Valentinian I’s death to make himself in charge of the empire by making Valentinian’s 4-year-old son with Justina Valentinian II his puppet emperor as Merobaudes having Frankish barbarian blood could not be accepted as a Roman emperor, although despite Valentinian II being made Augustus, 16-year-old Gratian still maintained himself as the senior emperor of the west, but the most senior emperor of the whole empire here would be Valens as he was the oldest of the 3. However, in this case with Valentinian I staying alive after his rage, he would still be the empire’s most senior emperor while Gratian who had been his father’s western co-Augustus still stayed as co-Augustus, except here since Valentinian II was still too young, he would not receive any imperial titles yet, instead Valentinian I would soon enough discover Merobaudes’ treachery in planning to make young Valentinian II his puppet emperor and in the process framing Count Theodosius in North Africa for treason as Merobaudes always envied him. In reality, after Valentinian I’s death, Merobaudes true enough framed Count Theodosius who he envied ordering the latter’s execution in early 376, thus this led to Count Theodosius’ son Theodosius the Younger fearing the same fate of his father to retire from military service in Moesia and return to his native Hispania to start a family but in this case with Valentinian I still alive, Valentinian would return to Trier to reunite with Gratian and here he would call Merobaudes to answer for his own treason in plotting against him and Gratian.

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Valentinian I and his pet bears, art by Roman Emperors

Valentinian I did not respond well to treason and Merobaudes would be proven guilty and as a punishment, Merobaudes would be fed alive to Valentinian I’s pet bears named Golden Camel and Innocence as it was known that Valentinian in his reign executed traitors in the army and government by feeding them to his bears which were kept in Trier, and here the half-Frank Merobaudes would suffer that fate. Valentinian would then apologize to Count Theodosius for Merobaudes’ behavior and not only pardon Count Theodosius in North Africa but appoint Count Theodosius to the highest military position of the west or Magister Militum charged with being the protector of both Gratian and Valentinian II while in Moesia which was part of the eastern half of the empire, Theodosius the Younger would still remain there but without having much significance. Meanwhile in the eastern half of the empire by 376, its emperor Valens had at least succeeded in building a massive and highly effective aqueduct in the capital, Constantinople but had spent most of his reign engaged again in the age-old war with the Sassanid emperor Shapur II except not to invade the Sassanid Empire but over the disputed control of Armenia and Iberia (Georgia). When Valens was over in Antioch preparing for his campaign against the Sassanids, he received shocking news from the Danube border of the eastern empire which was that the Goths have arrived and were seeking asylum within the Roman Empire from the Huns, so Valens decided to conclude another treaty with Shapur II so that he could rush back to the Balkans to check on the situation there. 

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Byzantine illustration of Emperor Valens
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Valens’ Aqueduct, Constantinople

The threat of Goths meanwhile was nothing new to Rome as ever since the 3rd century crisis, the Goths have already been invading the Danube border of the Roman Empire and in one event in 251, the Roman emperor Decius (r. 249-251) when pushing away the Goths from the empire was killed in battle against them. Valens himself years earlier in 367 fought against the Goths who supported the usurper Procopius that Valens had defeated so Valens based on his experience in actually winning the war knew what the Goths were capable of and knew they did not pose too much of a threat, so when Valens received word of the Goths all amassed outside the Danube border requesting for asylum within the empire, Valens agreed to it thinking the Goths could be dispersed once inside the empire wherein they could enter and be integrated as Roman citizens, surrender their weapons, renounce their tribal leaders, and allow their young men to be recruited into the Roman army. However, this was not the case here as the numbers of Goths outside the border numbered up to 90,000 and included men, women, and children all trying to get away from the Huns.

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Goths from across the Danube travel into Roman lands, 376

The Goths though have already been amassed outside the Danube border town of Durostorum in Moesia long before Valens got word of it as Valens was miles away, all the way in Antioch in Syria when he heard of this. Since Valens pulled out most of the troops mostly consisting of the best soldiers from the Balkans to Syria, the Danube border was undermanned and only protected by the less trained Limitanei army or border guards while the Goths outside the border requesting asylum in the empire did not just consist of a small band of warriors and families but almost the entire Thervingi tribe, which came from right across the Danube border in today’s Romania led by their new ruler Fritigern who demanded that they be let in because their homeland was under the threat of a new and unknown enemy that had the power to destroy civilization which were the Nomadic Huns. This mysterious race of people known as the Huns lived on their horses and destroyed everything in their path as a Nomadic Empire coming from deep within Central Asia and in the early 370s, a large horde of Huns arrived in the Steppes of Ukraine and defeated the Alani tribes that lived there and soon enough clashed with the tribe of the Greuthungi Goths who were from the area of today’s Ukraine along the Black Sea defeating them, and due to the Greuthungi Goths’ defeat, their leader Ermanaric, the same one who surrendered to Valens years ago killed himself and was succeeded by another ruler named Vithimiris who tried fighting back the Huns by hiring Hunnic mercenaries but was killed in battle earlier on in 376.

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Hunnish cavalry warrior

At the same time, the Roman vassal state of the Kingdom of Bosporus in the Crimea north of the Black Sea was lost as it fell to both the Huns and the Greuthungi. But for the Greuthungi, with Vithimiris died and his son Vithericus too young to rule, he was under the regency of 2 of the toughest and most brutal Greuthungi warriors Alatheus and Saphrax who did not seem to trust each other at all times but the young ruler also had his aunt, his father’s younger sister Valdis, another fierce and vicious warrior as his regent- though entirely made up just for this story- and ironically just like the siblings Valentinian and Valens who’s names began with a “v”, the siblings Vithimiris and Valdis also shared a “v” for their first names. The leaders of the Greuthungi Alatheus and Saphrax led their tribe first south into the lands of the Thervingi ruled by Athanaric- who made peace with Valens earlier- however Athanaric over the years had also been engaged in wars against the Huns and his many defeats weakened his authority that a majority of his men deserted him in favor of 2 other warriors Fritigern and Alavivus. By the time the Greuthungi Goths settled in Thervingi lands, Fritigern and Alavivus who were also converts to Arian Christianity were already basically in charge of the tribe but since Athanaric was still alive, Fritigern did not want to risk a civil war and persecution by the Pagan Athanaric especially since it was a bad time to do that considering the expansion of the Huns, so Fritgern and his men had no choice but to seek asylum in the Roman Empire and their Greuthungi neighbors thought about the same thing too, however it was Fritigern, Alavivus, and the Thervingi that showed up first at the Danube border and Fritigern himself wrote to Valens who was in Antioch to grant him and his men entry into the empire. Now looking back to decades earlier, the Goths beyond Roman borders accepted Arian Christianity as their faith rather than Nicene Christianity because it was closer to their own Pagan beliefs wherein they could worship outdoors like they did with their old gods.

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Thervingi Goths migrate into Eastern Roman territory

As the Goths were amassed outside the Danube border, Valens among many other Romans felt like giving the Goths a chance as the Romans too heard rumors that Huns who came out of nowhere “uprooted and destroyed everything in their path like a whirlwind descending from high mountains”, so feeling some sympathy for the Goths given their current situation, Valens decided to grant them asylum sending orders to the young army commander in Moesia, the Dux Lupicinus who was a tall and thin man with black hair and his 2nd in command Maximus who was both tall and quite overweight to assist Fritigern and his Goths in crossing the Danube into the empire and providing them with food and land to settle in. When seeing the Goths, Lupicinus and Maximus were shocked to see their numbers as 90,000 crossed the Danube in small boats and even tree trunks in such a panic that a number of them even died drowning in the river due to their combined weight. The moment the Thervingi Goths were within the Eastern Roman Empire in Moesia (Bulgaria), their numbers proved to be too impossible for the Limitanei border troops to control and for Roman authorities to feed that the food supply ran out thus starving them, though Lupicinus and Maximus when having the option to disperse them across the empire chose to contain all of them in Moesia as it would pose a threat to the whole empire if they were to be dispersed. With the shortage of food, the historian Ammianus Marcellinus here mentioned that the situation was so severe that the Goths had to sell their children to Roman slave traders in return for rotten dog meat. The Dux Lupicinus meanwhile sent word to Valens who was still in Antioch that they had made a mistake in letting the Goths in as their numbers were far beyond control but just as Lupicinus sent this report to Valens, the situation grew even worse as now the Greuthungi Goths led by Alatheus, Saphrax, and Valdis were now the ones outside the Danube border this time.

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Late Roman Limitanei border guard soldier, art by Amelianvs

Now Vithericus, the young ruler of the Greuthungi though was left behind in their lands to be raised by his mother. At this moment however, Lupicinus claiming he had orders from Valens refused to grant asylum to the Greuthungi realizing how the Thervingi were too difficult to manage. As for Fritigern who was feeling impatient, he broke out of his containment zone in Moesia attempting to take over some land to settle in and grow their own food but before doing it, he was caught by Lupicinus who secretly came up with a plot to capture both Fritigern and his tribal co-leader Alavivus by luring them into having a feast at the city of Marcianople in Moesia located near the Black Sea. With the absence of Lupicinus, Maximus, and their army at the border, the Greuthungi Goths that were being held there grew impatient and stormed into the border not knowing anything about their relationship with the Roman Empire and the agreement to be settled and integrated into the empire. Instead, the Greuthungi in this story’s case before making it to the Danube met up and allied with the same Quadi tribe and their leader Genseric that Valentinian I was at war and defeated a year earlier. The Greuthungi leaders Alatheus, Saphrax, and Valdis out of impatience slaughtered the Limitanei legions guarding the border, crossed the river again by stealing the small boats the legions had, and stormed into the empire mercilessly plundering the villages they saw and slaughtering all its people. The Greuthungi Goths then raided their way through Moesia and while the Greuthungi were continuing their pillaging spree, Lupicinus and Maximus invited Fritigern, Alavivus, and their bodyguards to a feast in Marcianople but it was all a trap as when the Thervingi leaders arrived, Lupicinus hoping this would end the unrest had his soldiers massacre Fritigern’s bodyguards killing Alavivus too in the process. Fritigern however managed to escape with only a few surviving bodyguards back to his army of 7,000 which happened to be assembled in the hills outside Marcianople and when returning to his men, Fritigern told them that the Romans had betrayed them by setting up a trap in which Alavivus was killed in and the Goths as people were known to have revenge easily when they are humiliated.

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Fritigern’s Gothic cavalry charge at the Romans outside Marcianople, 376

Hearing of Alavivus’ death, the Gothic army of Fritigern all demanded they attack Lupicinus and his forces and so the Goths under Fritigern proceeded to ravage the farms outside Marcianople burning everything they saw leaving Lupicinus and Maximus to confront the 7,000 Goths with their army of only 5,000 Limitanei troops which were not as effective and well trained as the mobile field army or Comitatenses in which most of them were with Valens in the east. Lupicinus’ Limitanei army however were no match to the vengeful Gothic warriors of Fritigern who in a fit of rage all charged at the Limitanei legions outside Marcianople easily shocking them. At the end, the Goths overpowered the Eastern Roman army making most of the barely experienced Limitanei legions flee back to the city and in the battle, Maximus was captured while Fritgern was able to interrogate Lupicinus asking him if Valens was secretly planning to betray them, instead Lupicinus with such fear in his heart told Fritigern that he was only following orders and demanded to be let go promising to give in to the Goths’ demands this time.

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Late Roman legionnaire’s weapons and equipment

Fritigern then told Lupicinus his own intention of actually making a kingdom of Goths within the Roman Empire and not fully believing Lupicinus’ word, Fritigern decided to spare him though Fritigern still pinned Lupicinus down to the ground and broke Lupicinus’ arm himself by pulling it thus snapping his lower arm out of his elbow joint, and with such trauma and humiliation Lupicinus galloped back to Marcianople in tears and pain while Fritgern ordered his men to pick up the more superior weapons of the dead Roman legionnaires including spears, longswords, shields, bows, javelins, and darts which would be helpful in fighting the Romans later on. Fritigern took many prisoners among the Roman legions as well enslaving many of them in order to show his men the way to the rich villages and towns and in the next couple of weeks, the Thervingi Goths in an act of vengeance against the Romans for mistreating them burned everything in their path, stole all the wealth, and massacred even the newborn babies. 

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Goths settling in the Roman Empire mistreated by Roman authorities
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Greuthungi Goths cross the Danube and slaughter Roman legionnaires

In late 376, Valens still in Antioch got word from Moesia hearing the Goths under Fritigern now joined forces with their Greuthungi neighbors and were pillaging their way through Moesia heading towards Thrace and also that Lupicinus had been defeated getting his arm broken. Valens now had no choice but to declare war on the Goths in order to contain them but he was not yet over in settling the conflict with the Sassanids so he sent his generals Trajan– named after the great 2nd century Roman emperor- and Profuturus with their legions west to the Balkans and contain the Goths. Over in Trier where Valentinian I was still alive in this story’s case, his son and co-emperor Gratian was first to get word from his uncle Valens that Thrace needs reinforcements from the west. Valentinian at this point was upset at his brother Valens for actually giving in to the Goths’ demands thus leading to such a large-scale catastrophe wherein Valentinian from the beginning being known to hate the barbarian enemies of Rome would have already not trusted the Goths and would immediately deny them entry when they camped outside the border.

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Western Roman emperor Valentinian I the Great (r. 364-375) with his Palatini legions

Now being so displeased with Valens’ decision, Valentinian chose not to head east leading the army, instead he sent a small number of poorly armed and poorly trained auxiliary troops and Limitanei legions from the Alps and Pannonia over to Thrace as a message for Valens to realize his mistake. Gratian however could somewhat see his uncle was going to be in trouble so he sent the half-Frankish general Richomeres to go east with a large army of the elite Palatini and Comitatenses legions. Now in early 377, before the eastern and western legions would meet each other in Moesia, Fritigern and his Thervingi tribesmen met up with the Greuthungi tribe setting up camp in the part of Thrace where the Danube meets the Black Sea and here Fritigern held a meeting with his now co-leaders Alatheus, Saphrax, and Valdis so to test the strength of his new allies, Fritigern asked Saphrax, one of the toughest warriors of the Greuthungi to challenge their new ally, the Quadi’s leader Genseric to a duel and in this sword duel, Saphrax was able to disarm and pin Genseric to the ground and with Genseric losing, Fritigern demanded Genseric leave their alliance for losing in a single duel as Fritigern did not tolerate weakness especially since he knew they would soon be at war with Romans who were much stronger and disciplined when it came to war. After Genseric angrily left the alliance’s camp feeling betrayed, Fritigern then asked Alatheus to prove his strength in killing Romans by asking him to kill their prisoner, Lupicinus’ co-commander Maximus in which Alatheus after removing his armor and tunic beneath it to the point of only wearing his pants and boots eagerly clubbed Maximus to death so brutally in front of the Goths in which even Fitigern was shocked seeing such brutality. With the overweight Maximus beaten so brutally, Alatheus spat on his face and minutes later Maximus died from his wounds and his body was dumped into the Black Sea. Fritigern now at least knew he could count on his new Greuthungi Goth allies but he knew that in order to win against the Romans, he needed a Roman to take as a hostage willing to betray Rome and expose the weak points of the Romans to them. The western forces led by Richomeres meanwhile had arrived in Moesia and got into a few skirmishes with the Goths while the eastern legions led by Trajan and Profuturus also arrived in Thrace with their Armenian allies as they headed north to Moesia and near the mouth of Danube, both eastern and western forces were able to meet up.

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4th century Roman Comitatus legionnaire (left) and auxiliary (right)

When both eastern and western Roman forces met up near the same city of Marcianople where the conflict began almost a year earlier, they were from there able to track the Goths to nearby the town of Ad Salices meaning “by the willows” where the Danube met the Black Sea where the combined Goths under Fritigern, Alatheus, and Saphrax were encamped and there they readied themselves creating a wagon fort known as a laager surrounding themselves with their own wagons. The combined forces of the Greuthungi and Thervingi Goths started feeling uncomfortable being held inside their wagon fort that both Alatheus and Valdis demanded that Fritigern allow them to leave and simply attack the Romans who they heard were approaching but Fritigern told them that they had to fight smart, as one careless charge would make them lose. The Goths then spent the whole night behind their wagons which formed a circle and when the sun rose, they could see the Roman legions headed their way coming from the hills and seeing the Romans coming, Fritigern ordered his other fellow Thervingi warriors, Sueridus and Colias who were his 2 other toughest men to charge at the Roman legions while Fritigern, Alatheus, Saphrax, and Valdis stayed behind the wagons.

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Medieval illustration of a Gothic “laager” or wagon fort

The battle started without any results except for both the Romans and Goths losing the same number of men over the next hours due to the javelins they threw at each other until the point when both forces’ shields clashed with each other. When nightfall came, both eastern and western Roman forces abandoned the battle seeing that they have lost so much men and the Goths did the same too, though both Sueridus and Colias survived and retreated back to the wagon fort. As for the Western Roman forces, the general Richomeres noticed that his men were already too weakened from the battle thus he abandoned the mission and retreated back west with what was left of his army while the eastern generals Profuturus and Trajan seeing that they could not do anything about the battle anymore retreated south. The Goths however stayed for one more week in their wagon fort as they were expecting the Romans to attack again but when learning of no new attack, Fritigern ordered the fort to be dismantled and that they disperse again across Moesia, thus the Romans though coming so close to containing the Goths failed to contain them again. As for Trajan and Profuturus, when heading south, they met up with Lupicinus who had now fully recovered and together had stationed soldiers and ordered the construction of blockades in the mountain passes of Thrace to prevent the Goths from reaching Constantinople. Fritigern then led his men west hoping to arrive in either Greece or Constantinople that way but were blocked by the new fortifications in the mountain passes where they got into several unsuccessful skirmishes with the Romans, though as they travelled west, here a fictional scenario happened wherein a small army led by the same Dux of Moesia Theodosius the Younger, son of Count Theodosius clashed with the Goths, and Theodosius here wanted to score points for Rome as he did before in 374 when the Quadi and Sarmatians invaded Moesia.

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Fritigern, ruler of the Thervingi Goths on his horse

Theodosius’ forces however lost in battle to Fritigern and Theodosius himself was captured and chained while his army scattered. He was later brought to the Goths’ new camp while Fritigern still thinking of ways on how to defeat the Romans sent word to the Alans beyond the Danube to help them, also sending funds to pay for an army of Hunnish mercenaries. At the camp, Fritigern met with the 30-year-old Theodosius the Younger where Fritigern was convincing him to join the Goths, though Theodosius was at first not open to the idea since he was loyal to Rome and wants to prove to his emperors Valentinian and Valens that he was worthy of being promoted to a higher rank in the army but Fritigern wanting a Roman on their side convinced Theodosius with lies that Valentinian could get rid of him one day if Theodosius would do something wrong as Fritigern knew this about Valentinian’s personality so Theodosius falling for this considered the option of joining Fritigern who also promised to make Theodosius the Goth’s puppet Roman emperor with all the imperial privileges if the Goths were to win.

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Roman legionnaires at the Battle of Ad Salices against the Goths, 377

Meanwhile, in late 377 Valens finally marched out of Antioch after taking care of a few local disputes including a small rebellion there gathering almost all the forces in the east stationed at the border of Armenia to join him in their march west to face the Goths while in Gaul, Richomeres returned reporting to Valentinian of their defeat to the Goths at Ad Salices. Valentinian as usual was angered hearing of this defeat but hearing from Richomeres that the Goths possessed a large number of men and that their strength was underestimated, Valentinian agreed that it was time to help his brother in the east despite Valentinian growing more and more displeased with Valens’ incompetence and also to the fact that Valens was an Arian Christian making him a heretic but since a bigger threat was coming and this threat came from Germanic barbarians that Valentinian was extremely angered at, he decided it was finally time after 13 years since coming into power to help his brother. With Valentinian still in Trier, his general Count Theodosius unaware that his son joined the Goths told Valentinian that if he marches east then the Rhine would be unprotected making the Alemanni invade Gaul again so Valentinian entrusted Count Theodosius with 3 western legions to stay in the Rhine border and together with Gratian defend it against a possible Alemanni threat all while Valentinian’s younger son was in Milan at this time under the care of his mother Justina.

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Sample Germanic Alemanni warrior and weapons

Now in real history, with Valentinian I dead by the time the Goths were invading Thrace, Gratian who was now the western senior emperor was already sending a reinforcement army east to help Valens but the Alemanni true enough did invade the Rhine which made Gratian have to focus on defending it first thus delaying them from meeting up with Valens, however in this case with Valentinian I still alive, he would be able to manage the army better by splitting it in half with one division sent to guard the Rhine and the other one which included Palatini legions to join him in their march east. Now as both western and eastern Roman legions were regrouping again, the Goths now with their Hunnish and Alan allies under Fritigern were able to break through the Roman blockades in the Haemus and Rhodope Mountains and were able to get deep into Thrace already so close to Constantinople but stopping them was the city of Deultum (in today’s Bulgaria) along the Black Sea which was heavily guarded by an Eastern Roman army. Fritigern knowing that there was no way to take over the city since they had no siege weapons assembled his camp in a swamp some kilometers away from the city and by this point Theodosius the Younger was already with the Goths but still unsure whether he would loyally serve Fritigern or not as the Goths Alatheus and Saphrax openly distrusted him for being a Roman.

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Concept art of a female Gothic warrior (Valdis in this story’s case)

As Theodosius thought of whether to betray Rome or not, the tough and blonde female Greuthungi Valdis who was brave enough to do anything including fighting only wearing a band of cloth across her chest and a fur cloak over her shoulders leaving most of her body except for her legs and breasts exposed entered his tent and again convinced Theodosius that the Goths will surely beat the Romans and with Roman authority gone, Theodosius would have no longer any more purpose at such a young age and with Fritigern, he would have a future. Valdis then told Theodosius that Fritigern needs him in their next mission which was to find a way to steal the siege weapons of Deultum and only a Roman which is Theodosius could be able to help them sneak into the city and here Theodosius agreed to help.

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A Late Roman Onager (catapult)

As for Valens now in 378, he had already arrived in Constantinople where he was met by massive rioting due to him being an Arian and not being around when the Goths invaded but since Valens had no time to deal with the riots especially since the Goths were coming so close, he soon enough left Constantinople to meet up with his generals in a town nearby where Trajan, Profuturus, and Lupicinus met up with him as well as another general named Sebastianus who had arrived from Illyria and here when Valens heard of Trajan letting his men lose to the Goths at Ad Salices, he had Trajan demoted and sent to quell the unrest in Constantinople replacing him with Sebastianus who was made Magister Militum.

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Eastern Roman Magister Militum

Lupicinus here told Valens exactly what the Goths were up to which was that they did plan to actually make a kingdom of their own in Roman territory which now justified for Valens a reason to fight them in battle so Valens first sent Sebastianus to head north and wipe out the Gothic raiding bands that were reported to have been raiding through Thrace. Now in real history, Lupicinus after his defeat to Fritigern back in 376 disappeared from history but in this case to expand more on his character, he was asked by Valens to join him against the Goths as Lupicinus facing the Goths’ full power earlier on knew what to expect, meanwhile the same Quadi leader Genseric and his men also met up with Valens this exact moment now fully swearing loyalty to Rome after being betrayed by Fritigern for showing weakness, and Valens desperate for a larger army accepted Genseric and his Quadi warriors as allied troops better known as Foederati. To the north, the general Sebastianus with a small force was able to defeat all the raiding Gothic hordes near the city of Adrianople and due to their defeats, the surviving Goths headed back to Fritigern to tell him to proceed to Adrianople as Valens had come to reinforce it. Over in the coastal city of Deultum along the Black Sea, here is another fictional scenario for this story’s case wherein a team of only 6 consisting of the Greuthungi leaders Alatheus, Saphrax, Valdis with the Thervingi leaders Sueridus and Colias and their hostage Theodosius the Younger broke into the city at midnight as Theodosius who had been to Deultum before knew of a way in wherein he led them through bypassing the city’s garrison through an entrance by the beach and once they were in, Theodosius showed them the storage room of the siege engines where they had Sueridus and Colias guard the door while Alatheus, Saphrax, Valdis, and Theodosius went inside to steal the siege weapons including ballistae and onagers, however when coming in they realized they did not bring any tools to dismantle the weapons so Alatheus who was in charge of this mission angrily slapped Saphrax for making them fail the mission so the 5 Goths escaped the city using the same passage they entered leaving Theodosius alone inside.

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Late Roman Ballista

However, when the sun rose, Theodosius came out of the city’s main gate with the entire city’s garrison though not betraying the Goths, instead he bribed the Roman garrison there to join the Goths and surrender the city and even more, he was able to acquire the siege weapons with the help of the local garrison. The 5 Goths except for Alatheus were all pleased with Theodosius’ efforts as Alatheus began to feel that the Roman Theodosius who they had just met was getting more attention as Alatheus always felt he was everyone’s favorite warrior. Back in the camp, Fritigern was pleased hearing that Theodosius helped them take siege weapons they so needed so he called for just Alatheus, Saphrax, Valdis, and Theodosius to personally meet with him at his personal tent wherein he told them that alliances are indeed important and that they were now to head to Adrianople as Fritigern heard that Valens was going to reinforce it. Fritigern however told them that they must head over to Adrianople as he heard Valens was sending an army there and that Valentinian from the west was soon to arrive. Again, in real history, the forces of Gratian would take months to arrive and help Valens in the east especially since the Alemanni invaded Gaul making Gratian have to focus his attention there but in this case Gratian with Count Theodosius would be there in Gaul to fully focus on the Alemanni which had just invaded while Valentinian I was already heading east with Richomeres. Valens meanwhile had been waiting for Valentinian to arrive for 2 months now and this whole time, the thought of Sebastianus scoring victories would make Valens feel like a loser so feeling confident to attack the Goths to score points and gain the respect of the people in Constantinople even before Valentinian could arrive, Valens ordered all his men including his commanders Profuturus, Lupicinus, and Genseric to depart their base near Constantinople for Adrianople on the morning of August 7, 378, although both Sebastianus and Richomeres met up with Valens here and Richomeres gave word to Valens that Valentinian was very near so Valens did not have to charge into battle yet.

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Training process of the late Roman army, art by Amelianvs
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Fritigern and his Goths ride through Thrace in 378, art by Giuseppe Rava

The Climax- The Battle of Adrianople (378)

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Before Valens and his army arrived outside Adrianople, Fritigern and all his allies arrived ahead setting themselves up in one of hills near the city of Adrianople in Thrace where they did the same as before building a circular fort using their wagons and placing their tents inside it and again with their women and children brought with them too. Valens meanwhile on the night of August 8, before reaching the area of Adrianople received an envoy from Fritigern which was an Arian priest who addressed that the Goths only wanted some land in the Roman Empire, and Valens hearing the truth from Lupicinus before in this story’s case knew certainly that Fritigern was lying but Valens did not think of attacking yet because he still knew Valentinian would arrive soon enough. Valens and his generals then held a war council to decide whether to attack immediately or wait for Valentinian but Sebastianus told Valens to just attack believing Valentinian might have had other places to go in his long march and if they attack, Valens who had never gotten much credit in his life will finally get it while Richomeres on the other hand told Valens to simply wait since it was about time the Romans showed unity against a common enemy. Valens and his men then did not sleep the entire night as they were waiting for either a surprise attack from the Goths or for Valentinian and reinforcements to arrive and during this hot summer night night Valens contemplated his whole reign and was deciding if he should listen to Sebastianus and attack since it could gain Valens some credit as for his whole reign he felt as if he lived in the shadow of his older brother and had never achieved much and now was his chance.

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Layout of a late Roman Castra (army camp)

Just as everyone remained awake all night, a young Roman-Egyptian Comitatus soldier in the eastern army named Flavius Anthemius under the command of Profuturus saw an army of legionnaires marching to their camp and Anthemius immediately sent word to Valens at his tent that the full western army finally arrived with Valentinian dressed in full golden imperial armor and a purple cape over it at the lead. Once the western legions arrived in Valens’ camp, Valentinian proceeded to Valens’ tent and the brothers would see each other again in person after 14 full years as the last time both had seen each other was in Constantinople back in 364 when both were made co-emperors and now, they were finally reunited for the moment they were both needed most to fight together as Eastern and Western Romans united. Valens here wearing only his sleepwear which was a loose white tunic was filled with joy seeing his older brother again but Valentinian in full armor slapped Valens’ face when seeing him as a way to scold Valens for his incompetence especially in committing a terrible mistake in trusting the Goths and letting them into the empire thus leading to a devastating war. Valens told Valentinian that he admitted he was wrong but Valentinian was still not happy with Valens’ answer though Richomeres told both co-emperors to stop arguing with each other like children as they cannot do something this stupid in such a critical time when the Goths are already coming so close to them. In the middle of Valentinian and Valens’ argument, the same Quadi leader Genseric saw Valentinian again despite from afar and thought of deserting remembering the trauma in him caused by seeing Valentinian’s rage 3 years earlier, but Lupicinus stood up and told everyone that this kind of disunity among the Romans is what the Goths want to exploit and that the threat of the Goths was no joke and was deadlier than all the enemies both Valentinian and Valens had faced in their lifetime, therefore they must unite for something deadlier is coming for both east and west. Valentinian then apologized to Genseric for his anger burst 3 years ago and told Valens that he was now settled and had agreed that he and Valens will lead the legions themselves. As the sun rose, the eastern and western legions departed the camp with the columns of eastern legions on the right with Valens in front of them next to his generals Lupicinus, Sebastianus, and Profuturus with their Palatini, Comitatenses, Limitanei legions and cavalry including Roman Cataphracts behind while at the center were the Quadi Foederati troops led by Genseric and on the left were the columns of the western legions led by Valentinian I in front with Richomeres and behind them too were the west’s Palatini, Comitatenses, and Limitanei legions and cavalry as well.

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Late Roman Comitatus soldier in full armor

The combined eastern and western legions despite getting no sleep the whole night before marched from their camp several kilometers away from Adrianople for 8 long hours in the heat of summer through rough terrain and at 2pm they caught sight of Fritigern’s wagon fort above a hill and when seeing the camp, the eastern and western cavalry units rode forward to flank both sides of their emperors and legions. Fritigern however wanted all his forces to attack at once so to buy time he planned a fake peace negotiation again with the emperors, again sending the same priest to negotiate with Valens in which Valens was about to agree to it but Valentinian soon enough rode to Valens demanding him to refuse it as he knew it would be a trap so Valens took the letter, ripped it, and threw it back at the priest who then returned to Fritigern’s camp, but soon enough he returned the next hour telling them that Fritigern wants to meet with them in person and Richomeres feeling like giving up agreed to surrender himself as a hostage to the Goths but Valentinian told him to shut up and shouted right at the priest telling him that they have had enough and did not march all the way there to settle for peace. The Roman legions meanwhile were all impatient and tired as they marched for 8 hours under the hot sun with such heavy armor making them extremely sweaty and dehydrated but both Valentinian and Valens told them to put that all aside and focus although out of nowhere- just like in the real story of this battle- a division in the Eastern Roman army consisting of Iberian archers from Georgia grew impatient and without orders from both co-emperors they charged up the hill to Fritigern’s camp wherein they were ambushed by a unit of Fritigern’s Thervingi Goths. Shortly after this division carelessly charged, a large army of the Greuthungi Goth cavalry with their Hunnish and Alan allies led by both Alatheus and Saphrax appeared and were charging downhill at the Romans, first breaking and routing the Iberian archers. As the division of Alatheus and Saphrax with their Huns and Alans charged from the north, the division of Greuthungi Goth cavalry together with the Thervingi warriors Sueridus and Colias and Valdis leading them charged from the east, thus beginning the battle.

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Emperor Valens riding to battle in 378, art by Giuseppe Rava
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378, Battle of Adrianople war map

As the battle fully broke out, the first of the Goths to charge at the Romans included the cavalry of Alatheus and Saphrax with their Hunnish and Alan cavalry and at this moment, the Romans saw for once how deadly and swift the Huns were as they charged with great speed at their formations constantly firing arrows as they rode but what was more terrifying to the Romans was that the Huns unleashed their lassos in which they managed to take down several of the weaker Roman Limitanei legions using them. To combat the Goth, Alan, and Hun cavalry, the Western Roman cavalry including the heavily armored Cataphracts led by the half-Frankish officer Flavius Bauto charged at them in wedge formations to break through the spinning circular formation of the Huns, while in the lower ground the Western Roman Comitatenses infantry without orders from a commander but from 2 young soldiers in their ranks, the half-Frankish Arbogast and half-Vandal Flavius Stilicho told all the infantry to form a shield wall or a version of the old Testudo formation but to remain still on the ground without moving, and at least they were able to resist the incoming waves of the Greuthungi Gothic infantry with it.

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Hun attacks a late Roman legionnaire

In the east side of the battle, Richomeres charged to confront Valdis and the other half of the Goths’ cavalry where Richomeres charged straight at it killing many Goths in the process. However as Richomeres charged at the center of Valdis’ division, Sueridus and Colias were able to break through the sides charging at the Eastern Roman infantry but again, the eastern legions including the young Anthemius and their commanders Sebastianus and Profuturus formed the same shield wall resisting the Goths’ charge and killing many although soon enough it looked like both eastern and western Romans forces were going to be encircled by the Goths and their allies as the division of Alatheus and Saphrax already charged on one side and the division of Valdis from the other side and ahead of them, Fritigern from his camp saw that the Romans were already trapped on both sides so he sent his Thervingi infantry using stolen Roman spears and shields to charge at the Roman infantry as if in phalanx formation. The first to charge at the Goths’ advancing phalanx though was not a Roman infantry division but the Foederati Quadi troops led by Genseric who were able to fight off and break the Goth’s formation but were soon outnumbered and Genseric himself was killed in the attack, thus routing the Quadi. On the north side of the battle, Alatheus killed many Romans in his path and was headed to Lupicinus, however Lupicinus who here was in command of the eastern Palatini legions used them to block off Alatheus’ attack while Saphrax and his cavalry charged at and broke the shield wall of the Comitatenses unit of Stilicho and Abrogast forcing both of them to flee to the Western Palatini legions. Both Valentinian and Valens meanwhile retreated to the back of the battle seeing that they were true enough almost surrounded and the battle was coming to no conclusions so far so Valentinian ordered that the Western Palatini cavalry return to him and the Eastern Palatini cavalry to Valens and form into columns to break through the Goths so that they could reach Fritigern’s camp as attacking it could distract the Goths.

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Late Roman Cataphract cavalry soldier

Meanwhile, the Goths still had more surprises and this time, Fritigern ordered their stolen Roman siege engines to be rolled out and from the hill, 8 stolen ballistae fired bolts scattering the Roman infantry. Seeing the ballistae and onagers firing at them from above, Sebastianus who was fighting off the Alan cavalry this time ordered the Eastern Roman archers to aim for the siege engines and to his shock, Sebastianus saw that the ones manning the siege engines were the Roman legionnaires that had betrayed Rome. Valdis on the other side of the battlefield was thrown off her horse by a javelin hitting her horse thrown by one of Richomeres’ men while Richomeres was pushed off his horse by a Goth he killed, thus leading to a one-on-one duel between Richomeres who only had his longsword or Spatha and Valdis wielding both a Gothic axe and a stolen a Roman Spatha making it her own weapon. The Huns on the other hand encircled several units of the Western and Eastern Roman infantry and in the attack against the Hunnish cavalry, the eastern general Profuturus was killed although the Huns’ battle formation was broken by Bauto and his cavalry which headed straight for the Goths at the same time as Valentinian and Valens both dressed in full imperial armor with golden jewelled helmets and purple capes with their Palatini cavalry charged in full speed to Fritigern’s camp and in the process scattering the Gothic forces and once above the hill, the Palatini cavalry slaughtered the Roman traitors and took over the siege engines now turning the tide of battle as they fired missiles at the Goths. Valens now was to lead the attack on the remaining Goths in their wagon fort while Valentinian was headed to Fritigern’s tent to confront him.

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Roman Comitatenses legions defend themselves against the Goths

In the battlefield, Saphrax was able to wipe out 3 Roman Comitatenses and 4 Limitanei units with the help of the Huns while Sebastianus himself confronted Saphrax in a duel but due to Saphrax’s intense speed in combat, Sebastianus was slashed in his legs and when falling on the ground was killed as Saphrax decapitated him with his axe. Alatheus meanwhile could see at the same time that the Goths were close to losing except for the Gothic infantry with Colias and Sueridus leading them being able to completely surround the Palatini legions led by Lupicinus, and Alatheus was now feeling conflicted whether to defect to the Romans fearing for his life or to continue fighting for his people. Alatheus now came to realize that there was no need to fight and destroy Rome as at this point he knew the Romans would give them the promise of a civilized life in exchange for the Goths submitting to them and now seeing all the glory he could have when serving Rome and also feeling that he would soon fall out of favor with the Goths as Theodosius was now becoming their new favorite, Alatheus had a change of heart and he himself with the Alan cavalry under him charged directly at Sueridus and Colias who were killed by spears thrown by Alatheus’ Alan cavalry, afterwards Alatheus freed the surrounded Palatini legions and Lupicinus who Alatheus then went up to telling him that now they should fight together.

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Alan cavalry warrior

Lupicinus was first unsure of how to react, but when the Huns came his way, Alatheus and his Alan cavalry immediately assisted him in counter attacking the Huns and when the Huns ran out of arrows to fire, they deserted the battlefield. The western legions meanwhile were close to being completely crushed by the remaining Goth infantry and cavalry led by Saphrax with Stilicho and Arbogast close to death but soon enough Stilicho who was knocked down on the ground and being constantly kicked in the chest by Saphrax gained the upper hand, pulled down Saphrax’s legs and stabbed him right in the chest with his sword while Arbogast did the same thus killing Saphrax while Bauto’s cavalry charged and routed Saphrax’s Goths. As night fell, both Greuthungi and Thervingi Goths seeing their leaders Saphrax, Sueridus, and Colias dead and Alatheus defecting, they all began deserting the battlefield. Back to Richomeres, he was in such fear fighting Valdis not only because of her skills but because of her fearsome screaming in which the fact that she was fighting almost naked except for the cloth band around her chest, fur cloak, and pants added up to the fear. Richomeres who was in full armor and a helmet however gained the upper hand and was able to disarm and injure Valdis as well as slash off her fur cloak, but before Richomeres could kill her, Alatheus, Lupicinus, Stilicho, Arbogast, Bauto, and Anthemius showed up urging Richomeres to leave her alone since with the Goths defeated, Valdis would be useless and she could even be a possible candidate for Roman citizenship while her status in Gothic society could make her a perfect wife for a Roman Patrician. Valdis who now being beaten in a duel with Richomeres and now only wearing the cloth band around her large breasts and pants as her cloak had been cut off refused the offer given to her by Lupicinus and instead went up to Alatheus telling him he is a traitor and will pay in blood but Lupicinus said that Alatheus is now a loyal citizen of Rome who can have the power to punish her, though without saying a thing, Valdis left never to return again.  

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The Hunnish lasso
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Goths charge at the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople, 378
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Late Roman legions form a shield wall
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Roman legionnaires weakened by the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople, art by Giuseppe Rava
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Last stand of the Eastern and Western Romans before their eventual (fictional) victory at the Battle of Adrianople, 378

As the battle was nearing its end below the hill with the sun setting, Valentinian made it into Fritigern’s camp killing Fritigern’s bodyguards himself with his sword while Valens and his cavalry looted and burned the tents of the Goths as well as the wagons surrounding the encampment killing the Gothic women and children that were kept in there as well since nothing could be done about them. Inside Fritigern’s tent, Valentinian to his horror saw Theodosius the Younger now fully a Goth in heart in full Gothic attire with a tunic, pants, and a fur cloak practicing with his sword as Fritigern observed him though Fritigern went up to Valentinian himself saying that the young Theodosius already saw that the Roman Empire would fall. Theodosius then spoke directly to Valentinian telling him to listen to Fritigern as Theodosius here could now truly see he was right for siding with the Fritigern’s Gothic coalition since Theodosius came to realize that the Roman Empire was broken and so divided especially because of the religious division between the Arian and Nicene Christians and only with the rule of the Goths would Rome rise up again united and be rebuilt under new leadership. Valentinian shocked seeing what Theodosius had become told him that Fritigern was poisoning his mind and to think about his own actions especially since Theodosius betraying Rome would make his father, the most loyal Roman general Count Theodosius very ashamed of him but the young Theodosius still did not listen saying his father too was weak and all he has done for Rome with his father was useless. Seeing Theodosius’ betrayal fuelled Valentinian’s rage once more but instead of choosing to attack Theodosius who he still saw as a fellow Roman, Valentinian charged straight at Fritigern with his sword though Fritigern blocked his attack with his sword and both were engaged in a vicious sword duel inside Fritigern’s tent which looked as luxurious as a Roman emperor’s tent could be.

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Sample design of Fritigern’s tent

In their duel, Valentinian managed to kick Fritigern who was much heavier with his armor to the ground and disarm him but Fritigern too kicked Valentinian’s arm disarming him too as Theodosius watched the rulers duel. With both disarmed, Fritigern and Valentinian fought with their fists until Valentinian was able to pin Fritigern to the ground wherein with such anger he punched Fritigern’s face countless times till it bled out until Theodosius dragged Valentinian out of it to protect Fritigern. Valentinian who however only met the young Theodosius once in 367 in Trier before the British campaign told him that Fritigern cannot be trusted and will kill Theodosius the moment he will get his way through him but Theodosius told Valentinian that the Roman imperial government itself cannot be trusted as all this time when Theodosius scored victories for Rome, he was not for once given credit and with Fritigern he will gain more credit than ever and with so much rage Theodosius proceeded to attack Valentinian with his sword but Valentinian not wanting to fight back still seeing some hope in Theodosius stood still and blocked all of Theodosius’ attacks with his sword that he had just picked up from the ground. Valentinian continued telling Theodosius to come back to the side of the Romans and see for himself what his father will think of his actions but Theodosius continued his attacks until managing to slash Valentinian’s face and out of defense, Valentinian pushed Theodosius to a brazier knocking him out, though this also pushed the heavy brazier to the ground making the flames spread and start burning the tent’s walls. As the tent started burning, Valentinian checked on the knocked-out Theodosius if he was still alive but Fritigern was able to get back on his feet and push Valentinian to the ground wherein Fritigern kicked Valentinian several times. As Valentinian was weakened, Fritigern proceeded to choke him and with Valentinian close to death, the Eastern and Western Palatini legions tore down the burning tent’s walls surrounding the them while Valens after wiping out most of the camp’s people rushed to Fritigern and kicked him saving Valentinian. Valens then angrily told Fritigern he deserves death for betraying his word and pillaging the countryside of Thrace and Moesia but Fritigern laughed seeing Valens himself willing to fight him off as Fritigern did not believe it knowing Valens unlike his older brother was a weakling and based on his indecisiveness in the war that started 2 years ago would surely have no guts to fight back but Valens here saw for himself his great mistake in trusting the Goths so he attacked Fritigern too with his sword.

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4th century Palatini Imperial Guardsman, art by Giuseppe Rava

Valentinian got up and both he and his younger brother Valens dueled Fritigern with their swords until both managed to disarm Fritigern again. As the cloth walls of the tent burned away and its fires were put down by the Palatini legions using the water they took from the Goths’ supply, both Valentinian and Valens finally fighting together as one proceeded to savagely beat Fritigern’s face to the point that his beard was soaked in his own blood. Fritigern then grew exhausted from all the fighting and fell to his knees but as he fell, a reinforcement of his bodyguard units from the battlefield rushed up to the camp surrounding Valentinian, Valens, and their Palatini legions. Fritigern told the brothers to surrender but Valentinian clearly refused and deep inside his head he could see not just all the battles he fought his entire life against Germanic barbarians but instead he was able to glimpse all the way back to the 1st century AD seeing all the wars Rome fought against any Germanic barbarian tribes whether Goths, Franks, Cherusci, Quadi, Vandals, or Alemanni and how much destruction they have brought to the empire which made Valentinian once again explode in anger. With such anger, Valentinian’s strength grew and just by slashing his sword, he killed a large number of Fritigern’s bodyguards while the surviving ones horrified seeing Valentinian’s anger fled in fear but before Valentinian could kill Fritigern himself, he fell to the ground as a blood vessel in his brain popped.

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Wrath of Valentinian I, by Dovahhatty

Fritigern too was shocked seeing the full wrath of Valentinian while Theodosius woke up after being knocked out and rushed to Fritigern while Valens went to check on his brother and Valentinian who fell to the ground told Valens that he has done his part and Rome is saved and that now it is up to both Valens and Gratian to ensure the empire will thrive again and due to suffering a burst blood vessel in his brain, Valentinian stopped breathing and died at age 57 but at least this time being able to spare the empire from a massive Gothic invasion. Fritigern then told Valens that he gave up due to seeing Valentinian’s anger which showed him this kind of frightening situation could happen if you messed with Rome. Valens then offered Theodosius again the chance to return to the side of the Romans as he could continue growing his career and be just as great of a general like his father Count Theodosius but the young Theodosius told Valens to get lost as he already has a future with Fritigern and the Goths so Fritigern then told Theodosius they are going back to the land of the Goths across the Danube saying that the war isn’t over yet. As both Fritigern and Theodosius the Younger left the scene, Valens had the Palatini troops picked up and placed Valentinian’s body in a cart headed for Constantinople where he will be buried, then Valens returned to the bottom of the hill to check on his men.

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Romans (fictionally) defeat the Goths at Adrianople

It was now late at night when Valens himself inspected the aftermath of the battlefield seeing that despite their victory against the Goths, it was a pyrrhic victory as 2/3 of the Roman army was lost but at least the Goths losing their leadership had fled and if not for Alatheus and the Alans defecting to the Romans, the Romans would have surely lost like in real history. In this case, the Romans were able to at least win despite losing more than half of their army and suffering from dehydration due to the heat because they did not lose to fear unlike in reality and here as well, Valentinian who was alive to be in this battle inspired such courage in his men to not give up. Richomeres and the young Stilicho who survived the battle went up to Valens asking what happened to Valentinian though Valens said that his older brother sadly passed but his sacrifice will not be forgotten for his anger was able to spare Rome from the devastating consequences of the Gothic War. Valens then told his men to all rest and set up camp right at the battlefield as in the next day, both eastern and western troops would return to Constantinople with their loot and Gothic prisoners wherein in a few weeks, they would celebrate a triumph when Gratian who is now the west’s new senior Augustus would arrive.

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Valens (fictionally) survives the Battle of Adrianople with his legions behind

3 weeks later, unlike in real history where Valens died in battle by either being shot by an arrow or being burned inside a farmhouse and the Goths continuing their pillaging through Thrace wherein they failed to besiege both Adrianople and Constantinople, a large triumph was celebrated in Constantinople’s main street or Mese for the surviving heroes of the battle of Adrianople following the burial of Valentinian I at the Church of the Holy Apostles, the newly built burial site for the emperors since Constantine I. In this triumph, Valens was now no longer unpopular as he was before but now celebrated as the hero of Adrianople while behind him both surviving eastern and western legions followed with their Gothic prisoners of war.

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Empress Albia Dominica, wife of Valens

The triumphal procession ended at Constantinople’s Hippodrome where Valens stood in a platform together with his wife Empress Albia Dominica and his now western co-Augustus, his now 19-year-old nephew Gratian who just arrived after just successfully defeating the Alemanni invasion of the Rhine with Count Theodosius coming east alone to congratulate the heroic soldiers and commanders particularly Richomeres, Lupicinus, Bauto, Stilicho, Arbogast, Anthemius, and their new Gothic ally Alatheus who were all called to come up to the platform together with the general Trajan who had remained in Constantinople all this time. Gratian who was also victorious in his own battles at the west then made his speech saying that with his father gone, he will do all his best in being a strong emperor like his father now that he was already an adult while Valens in his speech said that the struggles in the Gothic War taught them that it was their disunity that almost made them lose and that now east and west despite being ruled by different emperors must always cooperate with each other at all times, then Valens announced that when he dies as he had no sons ever since his only son died back in 370 at only age 4, the eastern half of the empire will be inherited by Gratian’s younger half-brother Valentinian II. Once the speeches were over, Gratian was fully acclaimed as the west’s new senior Augustus so the western legions that were in the Hippodrome pulled out a large circular shield where Gratian stood on as soldiers including Stilicho and Arbogast lifted him acclaiming him as their new emperor while cheers were once again heard from everywhere. 

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Church of the Holy Apostles, burial site of the Byzantine emperors
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Hippodrome and the Imperial District of Constantinople

 

Aftermath and Conclusion- Roman Victory and the Aftermath of the Gothic War

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In real history, the Romans could have actually beaten the Gothic army of Fritigern and his allies if Valens did not make the stupid decision of attacking the Goths without waiting for western reinforcements which means they could have worked together to overcome the Goths but instead Valens wanting to gain the credit he so wanted thought he could defeat the Goths himself but in the end, it meant the end for Valens. The Battle of Adrianople in reality resulted in the deaths of not only Valens but 35 of his senior officers and 2/3 of the Roman army dead and what really caused their defeat was not so much the lack of troops and strength or the heat but losing to fear as when they arrived at the battlefield, they were overwhelmed by the Goths that encircled them forcing many of the Roman soldiers to flee in fear instead of standing up against the Goths.

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Historical death of Valens at the Battle of Adrianople

Now in this story, the result of the battle was the same with 2/3 of the Roman army- both eastern and western combined- lost but what would be different here in this case compared to the historical version is that since Valentinian I was still alive and present at the battle, being an able and charismatic general to his troops, he was able to inspire them to stand up and not lose to fear even if it would mean dying in battle as they would all die to protect their empire but also what would cause victory for the Romans in this case despite suffering so much casualties was that their army was larger in number consisting of the full force of eastern and western legions and not to mention the fact that the Goth commander Alatheus and his Alan cavalry defected to the Romans. At the end however, Valentinian I too died in this alternate version and again due to his own anger resulting in a burst blood vessel in his brain as how it happened in his real death in 375 but at least his death and the intensity of his anger that caused it was frightening enough to scare Fritigern away and never return as this incident of Valentinian’s death happened right in front of Fritigern. Now in this case with Fritigern escaping the battlefield out of fear together with his new loyal Roman ally Theodosius, his Greuthungi commander Saphrax dying in battle, Valdis disappearing, and Alatheus defecting to the Romans, the outcome in real history wherein Fritigern and his Goths were free to pillage their way through Thrace while Alatheus and Saphrax would raid all the way into Illyria and Pannonia would not happen, instead the Romans seeing how close they were to losing would take this as a lesson to strengthen their defenses in the Balkans where the Goths had invaded and also due to realizing that their division almost caused them their defeat, the Romans would take this experience as a lesson that both eastern and western empires should cooperate more with each other. Now back to the historical version of the Battle of Adrianople and its aftermath, following the Goths’ victory and death of Valens, they were invigorated to pillage everything in their path though due to lacking siege weapons were unable to besiege the city of Adrianople and later Constantinople. Following the Battle of Adrianople in 378, the Goths attempted to besiege the eastern capital Constantinople but were crushed in a small battle against the army of the city wherein the city’s defense was supervised by Valens’ wife Empress Albia Dominica and also in this small battle, the defending Roman army had Arab mercenaries with them which proved effective in defeating the Goths and it was even said that one Arab soldier charged into battle naked and slit a Goth’s throat sucking his blood out which caused so much fear in the Goths that they fled, though still continued pillaging through the Balkans. The situation with the Goths however was partially dealt with by Theodosius the Younger himself who in reality instead of betraying Rome and siding with the Goths was recalled to Moesia from his retirement in Spain in late 378 wherein he actually campaigned successfully against the Goths. It was though only in early 379 when Gratian finally arrived in the east after defeating the Alemanni- particularly Lentienses- invaders but knowing he could not rule both east and west alone due to his young age and due to the fact that the threat of the Alemanni in the Rhine was not over yet, Gratian appointed Theodosius who was the nearest most capable general around to be his eastern co-emperor based in Constantinople trusting him since Theodosius was the son of Gratian’s father’s most trusted general Count Theodosius.

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Emperor Theodosius I (r. 379-395)

Now in real history, since Theodosius I became emperor of the east, he moved his new wife Aelia Flaccilla who was also a native of Roman Spain and their infant son Arcadius to Constantinople from Spain while Theodosius set up Thessalonica as his military base in the second phase of the war against the Goths which were still devastating the Balkans. The second phase of the Gothic War from 379 to 382 began out terribly as Theodosius decided to attack the Goths using retired army veterans, inexperienced recruits that were forced into the army despite them mutilating their hands to be spared, and hired Gothic mercenaries and this only resulted in most of the army deserting and the Gothic mercenaries defecting Fritigern who they were actually loyal to. In Pannonia meanwhile, the Gothic threat was ended by the Western Roman army led by the generals sent by Gratian which were the same Arbogast and Bauto who were mentioned here in the battle and after being driven out of Pannonia, the Goths were now successfully pushed back to Thrace by the summer of 381. The Gothic War then finally ended in 382 when Theodosius decided to just make peace with them since he knew there could be no military victory against the Goths and by 382, the Gothic leaders Fritigern, Alatheus, and Saphrax were no longer mentioned again, and it is unclear on what dates they died.

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Athanaric, Ruler of the Thervingi Goths, died in 381 in Constantinople

Another incident that happened before the war ended was that in 381, Fritigern’s rival Thervingi ruler Athanaric was exiled by his own tribesmen making him seek refuge in the Roman Empire wherein Athanaric unexpectedly came to Constantinople making a deal with Theodosius that made Athanaric’s Gothic army be settled into the eastern empire as federate troops while Athanaric after seeing the impressiveness of Constantinople as the imperial city, came to realize that there was no more reason to have war with the Romans which perhaps made him choose to settle peace with Theodosius and shortly after, Athanaric died in Constantinople sometime in 381 and was given a funeral with full honors by Theodosius. Basically what happened after 382 was that Theodosius did the same as he did with Athanaric’s men a year earlier which meant that the remaining Goths he signed peace with were allowed to settle within the Roman Empire though under their own leaders but were at least successfully made into Foederati or allied troops to the Roman army and this peace agreement with the Goths turned out to be successful, at least until Theodosius I’s death in 395. These new Gothic Foederati troops in the Roman army became of use when Theodosius fought civil wars first against the usurper Magnus Maximus of Britannia between 383 and 388 and against the usurper Eugenius and the now traitor general Arbogast between 392 and 394. The Goths including their future ruler Alaric I then played a major role in helping Theodosius win a decisive victory over Arbogast and Eugenius at the Battle of Frigidus in 394 .

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Alaric I, King of the Visigoths (r. 395-410)

The devastating part however only came after Theodosius’ death in 395 when Alaric rose to power and declared himself king thus making his men independent from Roman rule despite him being given the title of Magister Militum later on. The real consequence of the Romans’ defeat at Adrianople in 378 and the conclusion of the war that allowed Goths to settle in the empire was truly evident in the event that Alaric and his Goths suddenly sacked Rome in 410 which marked the beginning of the end of the Western Roman Empire as after this, the Goths were again free to roam pillage the west until they eventually settled in Gaul and later in Spain, breaking away from the Western Empire and forming their own kingdom.

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Battle of the Frigidus, 394- victory of Theodosius I and Gothic allies against Arbogast, art by Amelianvs
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Alaric I and his Visigoths sack Rome, 410

 

Now in the case of this alternate story wherein the Romans won the Battle of Adrianople, there would be no ongoing Gothic threat in the Balkans, therefore no need for the new western Augustus Gratian to appoint Theodosius the Younger as his eastern co-emperor especially since in this case Valens would still be alive and Theodosius too won’t be around to either be appointed as co-emperor or try to take the throne since he had joined the Goths and with their defeat, he fled with them back to the Gothic homeland.

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Bust of Emperor Valens

With the Romans victorious against the Goths in 378, Valens as the most senior emperor of the whole empire would come to realize his mistake especially in attempting to fight the Goths alone wherein he could have gotten killed as he did in real history if not for Valentinian coming to his aid. Here Valens would see that he should have learned to not make his insecurities of feeling that he has not gotten any credit to get the best of him because eventually he did defeat the Goths and gained credit for it, therefore he also learned that he needed to be patient as the time will come for him to earn the praise from his people that used to despise him before. Now because the Eastern Romans won with the help of the west, Valens too would learn that working together as Romans is definitely important especially if the threat comes from outside, which was here the case with the Goths and that one division or particularly the emperor of one division of the empire shouldn’t think he should compete with the other especially since they were still one empire after all except divided with co-emperors. Now after 378, Valens would continue ruling the east as the most senior emperor of the empire as he is the oldest of the emperors and now also a respected figure and military hero while in the west Gratian would rule as his uncle’s western co-Augustus and since the war with both the Goths and the invading Alemanni in the Rhine was over, Gratian would use the time to practice becoming a strong ruler the way his late father was. Since Valentinian I was dead, Gratian would now be on his own to run the west and due to his experience in actually defending the Rhine, he would already have what it takes to manage a complex and war-torn empire and all these experiences of his in these hard times would sure enough shape Gratian into a wise and not only a tough emperor.

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Emperor Valentinian II, son of Valentinian I

Meanwhile, following Valentinian I’s death in 378 in this story, his younger 7-year-old son Valentinian II here would now be made not only a Caesar of Gratian but his co-Augustus of the west though due to his young age, he would still be under the regency of his mother Empress Justina while Count Theodosius the actual protector of Valentinian II would eventually retire from military service and return to his native Spain after 378 due to his old age as by this time he could already be in his late 60s or early 70s but his sudden retirement would also be because of the sadness he felt after discovering his son who he always thought would be a loyal soldier to Rome betrayed Rome and joined the Goths and worse even becoming a top general of the Goths. Since Count Theodosius retired from his military service in the west, he would be replaced as the new Magister Militum by Richomeres who would definitely be a loyal general to both Gratian and Valentinian II while Bauto who survived the battle would be the west’s cavalry general or Magister Equitum while both young soldiers Stilicho and Arbogast would quickly rise up the ranks to becoming both Magister Peditum or infantry generals of the west due to their valor shown in the Battle of Adrianople. The Greuthungi Goth leader Alatheus meanwhile after swearing his loyalty to Rome would be given land in Pannonia and command of his Alan cavalry as the empire’s new barbarian federate troops in the scenario of a future war against possibly the Goths, Franks, Sassanids, or even the Huns as the Battle of Adrianople also showed the Romans that they need barbarian allies who know the fighting styles of the barbarians in order to fight the barbarians and since Alatheus was inspired by how orderly and sophisticated the world of the Romans was and not chaotic like the world of the Goths where he came from, he would surely become a loyal commander to Rome despite being a Goth. In the east, the general Trajan who Valens demoted before the Battle of Adrianople would turn out to do his job well as Constantinople’s city prefect or mayor charged with keeping order and building up the imperial city to something even greater than that of Rome while Lupicinus who has survived the battle and gained more military knowledge from it would end up becoming the east’s Magister Militum. The character of Flavius Anthemius meanwhile who was mentioned here was true enough the same Anthemius who later became the city prefect of Constantinople that built the famous and massive Theodosian Walls in the 410s and just like in real history, Anthemius here would become Constantinople’s city prefect and in the future would built the same 3-layered walls we know of except since there would be no Emperor Theodosius II that the walls was named after due to Theodosius II’s grandfather Theodosius I betraying Rome, these walls would maybe be called the “Anthemian Walls” after Anthemius which would do the same as in real history in protecting Constantinople for more than a thousand years to come. Back to Valens, since he survived that battle in 378, he would most probably die by around 395- the same year Theodosius I died in real history- and since Valens had no sons , he will sure enough be succeeded by his nephew Valentinian II as the new eastern Augustus and now both Gratian and his younger brother would rule as western and eastern co-emperors the way Valentinian I and Valens did before them while Gratian who would definitely be married by this time would most possibly have a son so there would be no succession problems.

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The Theodosian (aka. Anthemian) Walls of Constantinople, built in the early 5th century 

 

The biggest change in this story now happens to be that Theodosius I better known as “Theodosius the Great” would not become eastern emperor in 379 and this would surely change a lot of things. Without Theodosius I for one, the Goths would not be settled into the empire under their own leaders but this too would not happen since they were already defeated back in 378, though the even more pivotal changes that would happen if Theodosius would not be emperor would surely be that Nicene Christianity would not be made into the empire’s official religion being made superior among all others, thus all religious beliefs whether Christian (Arian or Nicene) or Pagan would still be tolerated in the empire under Gratian and Valentinian II, therefore no persecutions of Pagans, no destruction of ancient temples and traditions, and no banning of the Olympics games as what happened in the reign of Theodosius I.

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Emperor Theodosius I the Great

With Theodosius I not around too, there would also be no reason for his old friend Magnus Maximus in Britannia to start a civil war against Gratian in 383 as he did this in hopes of being Theodosius’ co-emperor, also there would be no civil war against the usurper Eugenius in 392 as Valentinian II would sure enough grow up to be a capable ruler and not a puppet as he was when Theodosius I was emperor in reality meaning Valentinian II would not be betrayed due to his weak leadership making the army led by Arbogast be in favor of Eugenius, though Arbogast would still possibly have his own imperial ambitions but since either Gratian or Valentinian II would turn out to be strong rulers, they would soon enough discover Arbogast’s treachery and later have him executed. Lastly, without Theodosius around in the empire at this point and since in this story Theodosius had not retired to Hispania as his father was not executed, Theodosius here would have not been married to Aelia Flaccilla, therefore his sons and later the incompetent emperors Arcadius and Honorius would not even be born meaning there would be no need to permanently divide the empire between east and west as what happened in reality with the death of Theodosius I.

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Emperor Theodosius I the Great of the Eastern Roman Empire, art by myself

Now since I have mentioned Theodosius betraying Rome and after 378 fully becoming one of the Goths by joining Fritigern in returning to the Goths’ homeland across the Danube, there could be many different possibilities on what could happen to him. Since the Goths had lost, Fritigern would have to think of ways of survival especially since the Goths would again have to face the threat of the Huns and now they would stand no chance especially after being beaten back by the Romans so Fritigern would have no choice but to ally himself with his old nemesis Athanaric and both be co-rulers of the Thervingi Goths in order to stand up against the Huns or even plan another invasion of the Roman Empire. As for Theodosius, he would not only become Fritigern’s and later both his and Athanaric’s top general but would also be adopted as Fritigern’s son and successor and in all those years, Theodosius living that hard life in the cold land of the Goths as opposed to the easier life he lived before in the warmer and more fertile Roman Empire would be shaped into a ruthless killer for the Goths that would be brainwashed to hate Rome making him kill Romans himself with such brutality like no other. As for the female Greuthungi leader Valdis who fled the Battle of Adrianople after her defeat to Richomeres, she would return to her homeland and Greuthungi tribe north of the Black Sea to now be the sole regent of her nephew Vithericus as Alatheus defected to the Romans and Saphrax died in battle. What could happen here is that Fritigern wanting a stronger and unified Gothic nation would fully unite his Thervingi tribe with the Greuthungi by marrying Theodosius to Valdis and since Fritigern due to old age and Athanaric as well would die some time sooner, the most possible new ruler of the united Goths would be both Theodosius and Valdis together while Vithericus would might as well be poisoned to death to stop him as a threat to both rulers and due to Theodosius as a Roman having the knowledge of their more superior battle tactics, the Goths would sure enough learn Roman tactics and prove to be an even deadlier enemy to the Romans when they would come to invade the empire again. The most possible scenario for the Goths to strike again and this time with Theodosius both leading them as their ruler and the candidate for the imperial throne with the backing of the Goths would be the death of Valens in 395 and since Theodosius being last in the Roman Empire in 378 would most possibly never have heard that Gratian’s half-brother Valentinian II existed, so he would use the death of Valens and the supposed vacancy of the throne in the east as an excuse to invade the empire and install himself as emperor, therefore being emperor of both Goths and Romans.

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The Roman Empire divided between east (purple) given to Arcadius and west (red) given to Honorius at Theodosius I’s death in 395 (in reality)

 

What could possibly happen here is that Theodosius with Valdis could gather a full force of a new Gothic army plus new Hunnish allies, with a new sidekick being the young Alaric, and a Roman ally which is Theodosius’ fellow Spaniard Magnus Maximus who at the time was based in Britannia to wage a deadly empire-wide war against Gratian and Valentinian II but since Gratian and Valentinian II learned that they should act as one in such challenging times, they would command the full force of the Roman army to battle the forces of the Goths and Huns in an epic battle worth talking about thousands of years later.

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Deadly Hunnish cavalry

In this epic battle that is to come, it is either that the united forces of both Western and Eastern Romans plus their new Frankish, Gothic, and Alemanni Federate armies defeat the full force of the Goths and Huns and finally have Theodosius tried and executed for treason, or that Theodosius wins and kills both Gratian and Valentinian II and then rules a super-empire covering the entire Europe that would turn the tide of history subjugating the Romans under barbarian Gothic rule with Theodosius I as the “Emperor of the Goths and Romans”. Another outcome though could be that after Theodosius defeats and kills both Gratian and Valentinian II, he would see his own mistakes in the past, abandon his Goths by sending them away together with Valdis, and come back to his senses becoming a true Roman once again and now with both Gratian and Valentinian II defeated and killed, Theodosius would end up becoming once again an emperor of a united Roman Empire but what would happen after would be unknown as it could be either that his half-Gothic children with Valdis could succeed him or he could marry again and sure enough establish a stable dynasty that would continue to preserve the rich legacy of Rome. Personally, I would go with the possible outcome of Theodosius taking control of the Roman Empire absorbing it into his new Gothic-Roman Empire which would totally change the course of European history since this could lead to a new Roman Empire reborn that would be under new Gothic leadership but retaining its old Roman values, systems, literature, and science and technology though with this new empire coming into existence, there would be no reason for the Byzantine Empire to exist as Western Rome would not fall and true enough this new and even more powerful and massive super-empire spanning north to south from the Baltic Sea to Egypt and west to east from Portugal to Syria and all the way to the Volga River in Russia could become a world power strong enough with such a massive army of Romans and Goths to face the deadliest threats known to man such as the Huns and Sassanids which they could surely easily defeat. Well, it is up for you viewers to decide what kind of outcome goes best with this alternate history story if the Romans beat the Goths at Adrianople and if the Goths and Romans go to war again.     

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Map of the Hypothetical Gothic-Roman Super-Empire of Theodosius I

 

And now I have now reached the end of the first chapter of my Byzantine history fan fiction series and though this is only first one, it may seem very long but this is particularly because the Battle of Adrianople was one event in Roman history with such a great variety of characters and true enough had such great consequences for the future of Rome as less than a hundred years after this battle, the Western Roman Empire came to an end in 476 leaving only the eastern half surviving as the Byzantine Empire. The defeat of the Romans at Adrianople led to the Goths being settled into the empire under their own leaders in order to settle peace with them wherein at first the Goths were loyal allies to Rome until the death of Theodosius I in 395 and the rise of the new Visigoth king Alaric I which led to the sack of Rome in 410 and the establishment of the Visigoth Kingdom in Gaul and Spain in the 5th century. The victory of the Goths in 378 and their invasion of the Roman Empire too led to the Thervingi Goths becoming the Visigoths who would settle in the empire wherein this would lead them to establishing what would be later on the ancestor state of medieval Spain, while the Greuthungi Goths eventually settling in the empire as well would a century later invade Italy and form the Ostrogoth Kingdom. In real history, the aftermath of the Goths’ victory at the Battle of Adrianople did have a lot of negative outcomes for the Roman Empire, especially the west since it led to the formation of new independent kingdoms like the Visigoth Kingdom of Gaul that would further weaken Roman authority in the west, though the victory of the Goths in 378 and their settlement into the empire also had positive outcomes and the most notable one being that the Visigoth Kingdom in Gaul founded by Alaric’s successors would one day redeem themselves by allying with the Western Romans in 451 when the Huns led by Attila finally invaded Roman territory as here the Visigoths under their king Theodoric I fought side by side with the Roman general Flavius Aetius at the Battle of Chalons in Gaul which was possibly 10 times even more epic that the Battle of Adrianople in 378 with even more casualties on both sides but at the end, thanks to the support of the Visigoths, the Western Roman Empire was spared from the deadly threat of Attila and his Huns although since the Western Empire was already weakened by too much wars and barbarian invasions as well as 2 sackings of Rome first by the Visigoths (410) and the Vandals (455), the empire was eventually only left with Italy thus leading to the fall of the Western Empire in 476. Now in this case, if the Romans were able to manage to defeat the Goths in Adrianople, the fall of Rome- at least the Western Empire- would still be inevitable as sooner or later the Huns, even possibly led by Attila could invade both eastern and western empires but since both halves learned to fight as one after almost losing to the Goths in 378, they could possibly manage to defeat the Huns and their new Gothic allies that they have subjugated the moment their invasion comes in the 5th century. Now before I end, I would then say that the Battle of Adrianople with a Roman victory would not do much in changing the course of Roman history, as the empire was bound to fall anyway ever since the Crisis of the 3rd Century though most possibly only the west which was more threatened by barbarian invasions would be the one to fall as the east becoming the Byzantine Empire would most definitely have more chances of survival as their empire included many rich cities and richer lands. On the other hand, unless the rare possibility of Theodosius betraying Rome and becoming a Gothic ruler would actually happen, this would true enough change the course of history like no other way especially if he were to rule both Romans and Goths together thus establishing an empire more powerful than any other in its time. Now for the 4th century, this topic of an alternate outcome to the Battle of Adrianople and the Gothic War with a Roman victory only came to my mind lately and after being inspired by Dovahhatty’s episode XVII “Imperial Wrath”, I just thought for myself that if Valentinian did not die from his own anger in 375, he could have been there to help his brother Valens eliminate the Gothic threat that just came into the empire the year after Valentinian’s death and since Valentinian was known to be a better military emperor than Valens, his skill would help the Romans defeat the Goths. Also, this team-up between Valentinian and Valens had also for me turned out to be one of the topics I have always wanted to do for a fan fiction ever since after again watching Dovahhatty’s video in his “Unbiased History of Romeseries. On the other hand, I also wanted to add a plot twist to this story which was Theodosius being seduced by Fritigern to joining the Goths and the Gothic leader Alatheus defecting to Rome and for these plot twists, I was greatly inspired by the storyline of season 3 of Cobra Kai. Personally, I think Theodosius is a very interesting and controversial figure who is the kind of Byzantine emperor I’d like to experiment on as in reality he is someone who should have not been in power as his actions as emperor helped indirectly cause more division that weakened the Roman Empire, for instance allowing the Goths to settle in the empire, so I would see that he would be better off joining the Goths so I did just that when writing this story. Well, I hope this was a very interesting and very complex fan fiction considering it is my first in this series. Now in this Byzantine fan fiction series I am making, I just have to say here that the stories will not be connected with each other in the alternate history plot and up next, the second chapter of my series will be focused on another possible what if scenario in the 5th century set in year 472 if the Western Roman emperor Anthemius was not assassinated and instead he assassinated his evil puppet master Ricimer if he received the secret letter from his Byzantine (Eastern Roman) co-emperor Leo I, now could this other outcome of the story alter the course of history by slowing down the fall of Western Rome wherein it would live even beyond 476? The next chapter too will discuss the actual aftermath of the Battle of Adrianople in real history resulting in the Goths and other Germanic barbarians like the Vandals and Franks taking over the western half of the Roman Empire while the Huns would invade the empire in full force. Well, this all for chapter I of Byzantine Alternate history, this is Powee Celdran, the Byzantine Time Traveler… thank you for your time!  

Next Story: Byzantine Alternate History Chapter II- 5th Century

Around the World in the Byzantine Era- Part1 (300-1000AD)

Posted by Powee Celdran

Part2: Around the World in the Byzantine Era (1000-1461)

WARNING: THIS IS A VERY LONG ARTICLE BUT ENJOY!! 

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So, welcome back to another article by the Byzantium Blogger! It’s been quite a while since I last posted something, so here’s something again. Previously over the past months I have done articles that involve both Ancient Roman and Byzantine societies followed by an extremely long one on No Budget Films’ most recent 13th century Byzantine Lego epic War of the Sicilian Vespers, but now here’s another one I’ve always wanted to write about and again it will be focusing on the 1,100 year history of the Byzantine Empire covering all its 12 centuries but unlike another one I wrote a long time ago which mainly focused on the events happening within the Byzantine Empire, this will focus on both the events within the empire but put side-by-side with what was happening around the rest of the world while Byzantium was existing. However since it would be too long to cover all 12 centuries in one article, it will be a 2-part series wherein this one as the first part will cover Byzantine history from its beginnings in the 4th century ending in the year 1000 while next part will go on from 1000 to the end of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 and the events after. This article will be divided in two sections per century, the first section discussing what is  going on in Byzantium and the next one on what is happening in different places around the world, but of course this article would only focus on the key events in these centuries as it would go on forever to talk about what happened each year but will still come to highlight not just important events but some interesting trivia like inventions and discoveries happening between the 4th and 15th centuries around the world. In this article, the final division of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires in 395 then from the 5th century onwards, the Eastern Roman Empire which is Byzantium would be on its own paragraph while the western part of the Roman Empire which would be dissolved in 476 would be in the other paragraph with the events happening all over the world and speaking of events all over the world, this article will talk about what was going on in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, China, India, the rest of Asia, and even in the Americas all while the Byzantine Empire was existing for 1,100 years. Also take not here that the part on the 5th century will be divided in 3 sections with one on Byzantium or the Eastern Roman Empire, the next on the Western Roman Empire and Western Europe, and the last on the rest of the world. This article as you read it would be your chance to travel around the world over the centuries with Byzantium as your base where you would from there in each century travel around the world by knowing what is happening in each part of the world, what powers are rising and falling, and what new inventions are being made. In this article, such key events that will be brought up here would include the same turning points in Byzantine history over the 7 centuries but other bigger events around the world like the expansion of the Arabs in 7th century, the rise of the kingdoms in Europe together with the Holy Roman Empire, and changes of dynasties in China. Now when reading this please forgive me if I’m getting some facts wrong since the happenings around the world from the 4th to 11th centuries outside Byzantium is some new information to me in which I had mostly discovered when writing this article which especially includes dates of the formations and declines of various empires and kingdoms around the world. This article though will not go all the way back to Rome’s founding in 753BC, or to the time of the Roman Republic or imperial age known as the Principate, rather its main focus would be more on the story of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium which begins in the 4th century and this article will be starting around the year 300AD with the exception of events before that such as the transformation of the Roman Empire into the Tetrarchy which laid the foundations for Byzantium while this article will end in the year 1000 when the Byzantium turns again into a powerful force and the rest of Europe too becomes stronger entering the High Middle Ages right before the age of the Crusades. Of course, this article too will not forget to mention the names of all the Byzantine emperors through the centuries to show also who was ruling Byzantium while such events were happening around the world. It is plain and simple that in the 1,100 years the Byzantine Empire existed, several others kingdoms and empire rose and fell; Byzantium then had seen its western half disappear in 476 following with the rise of kingdoms in Europe including England, France, and the Holy Roman Empire, the rise and expansion of the Arabs from the 7th century onwards, the rise and fall of their neighboring Bulgarian Empire twice (7th-11th and 12th-14th centuries), the beginning and end of the Crusades, the rise and fall of the massive Mongol Empire, as well as the rise and fall of the Seljuks, and also several changes of dynasties in China, the whole Viking age, the slow rise of Russia, and the unexpected rise of the Ottomans all while Byzantium within itself saw 15 changes of dynasties, civil wars, political reforms, and countless enemies threatening its borders. To put it short, the Byzantine Empire lived from the time of the Roman Empire all the way to the start of the Renaissance, meaning Byzantium survived the entire Middle Ages though not very steadily as Byzantium went though many ups and downs throughout the centuries but despite its civil, military, and cultural changes, Byzantium still stayed the same empire with one emperor under one God even if several break-away Byzantine Empires happened and by being one empire, Byzantium despite becoming very different from Ancient Rome culturally and especially in language from going from Latin to Greek and after a time not having Rome, it still stayed the “Roman Empire” or Romania in name and all its emperors still being Roman emperors, but while all of Europe was transforming over the centuries of the Middle Ages, Byzantium would remain the advanced and sophisticated empire of the Middle Ages as the remnant of Imperial Rome before them, although in Byzantium’s last years it was obviously no longer a powerful world empire but a regional power as the west had already surpassed Byzantium in power and influence, although Byzantium despite having grown weak with age would still be the powerful empire symbolically as its capital was Constantinople which was for a long time known as the “Queen of Cities” and one of the most advanced cities of the Middle Ages. Now this article would not really go so deep to analyze the turn of events throughout the centuries, but instead will try to focus more on facts, dates, and key events to keep it simple, but obviously this will be a very long article since Byzantium’s existence surpassed a thousand years.

Now for all of you reading, please do also like and follow The History of Byzantium and listen to their podcasts as this article I’m doing is something similar to it. Also like their Facebook page.

Credits to AMELIANVS for some of the art.

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Map of the Roman Empire at its height, 117AD

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The Byzantine Empire extent in 3 different eras

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Constantinople, the “Capital of the World”

Related articles from The Byzantium Blogger:

12 Turning Points in Byzantine History

The Complete Genealogy of the Byzantine emperors and dynasties

Foreign Lands and People According to the Byzantines Part1

Foreign Lands and People According to the Byzantines Part2

Constantinople: The Queen of Cities and its Byzantine Secrets

The Ravenna Mosaics and What to Expect

The Byzantine Emperors

Byzantine Science and Technology

The Art of War in the Byzantine World

A Guide to the Byzantine Empire’s Themes

15 Byzantine Related States Outside Byzantium Part1 (1-7)

15 Byzantine Related States Outside Byzantium Part2 (8-15)

Byzantine Imperial Personalities Part1

Byzantine Imperial Personalities Part2

Natural Disasters in Byzantine History

Ethnic Origins of the Byzantine emperors

The Sieges of Constantinople

The Story of 3 Plagues across centuries

Roman and Byzantine Imperial Systems Compared

Roman and Byzantine Imperial Cultures Compared

Imperial Women in the Roman and Byzantine Empires

Related Videos:

Rulers of Europe every year, 400BC-2017 (from Cottereau)

History of the Byzantine Empire Part1 (from Fire of Learning).

History of the Byzantine Empire Part2 (from Fire of Learning).

History of the World every year (from Ollie Bye).

The 4th Century

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In Byzantium (Roman Empire):

Before beginning, historians of the Roman Empire do not really mean only the 300s AD when referring to the 4th century, rather they use the term “Long 4th Century” which begins with the accession of Diocletian as Roman emperor in 284 and end in in the year 450, though here in this article, the 4th century would instead go from 300-399. So basically, before the 4th century began, the Roman Empire faced the turbulent times of the Crisis of the 3rd century (235-284) which saw the Roman Empire have a succession crisis with several change of emperor usually every other year, foreign invasions north by barbarians and east by the new Sassanid Persian Empire, several plagues, economic crisis, and an empire broken apart with 2 break-away states (260-274), though the crisis would be resolved with the emperor Aurelian (r. 270-275) reuniting the empire, the emperor Probus (r. 276-282) securing all its borders, and in 284 the army officer Diocles being proclaimed Emperor Diocletian who would transform the imperial system from the Principate to the Dominate with the emperor now having more divine authority, though Diocletian also began power sharing to make the empire easier in order to avoid usurpers which was the problem of the 3rd century so in 286 the Roman Empire was split east and west with Diocletian in control of the east from Nicomedia and Maximian in control of the west based in Milan forming the Diarchy which would then evolve into the Tetrarchy in 293 with the empire now split into 4 parts with Diocletian as the senior emperor or Augustus of the east with Galerius as his junior emperor or Caesar while Maximian would be the western Augustus and Constantius I his Caesar, and all 4 rulers would have their own provinces to govern with their own capitals whereas the Caesar Galerius ruled from Sirmium and Constantius I from Trier and Rome at this point no longer the imperial capital and in the year 300 this was the situation with the Roman Empire, and a quick mention in the year 301 the Christian monk St. Marinus from Dalmatia heads across the Adriatic and founds a monastery in Italy in what would be the country of San Marino today. In the year 303, Diocletian as Eastern Augustus and Galerius as Eastern Caesar begin the great persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire while Western Augustus Maximian also follows though Western Caesar Constantius I was instead not active in it rather protecting the Christians. In the next year (304), Diocletian visits Rome for the first time to celebrate 20 years in power but in the next year (305) he announces his abdication and retires to his palace in today’s Split Croatia while Maximian too is forced to retire as Augustus in the west making Galerius the new Eastern Augustus and Constantius I the Augustus in the west with Galerius’ nephew Daia as the new Eastern Caesar and friend Valerius Severus as the Western Caesar, although in 306, Constantius I dies of sickness in Britain while his son Constantine is proclaimed Augustus for a short time by the army until Galerius makes Western Caesar Valerius Severus the new Augustus and Constantine demoted to Caesar. Although the retired former Augustus of the west Maximian in 307 tries to take back power from Valerius Severus executing him and shortly after Maximian’s son Maxentius usurps power in Italy though in 308 this issue is resolved by the retired Diocletian making Maximian retire again, Maxentius not legitimized as emperor and Constantine as western Caesar and Galerius’ friend Licinius as the new Western Augustus though Maximian would still want to return to power but fails as he is executed by Constantine in 310 and in the following year (311) Galerius dies ending the Christian persecution making Daia the new Eastern Augustus with Licinius heading east to challenge him and later that year Diocletian dies seeing his dream of a stable empire fall into chaos. In 312, Constantine as Caesar of the west marches into Rome and defeats the usurper Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge after receiving a vision of the cross in which afterwards Constantine becomes the self-proclaimed Western Augustus then in the following year (313) Licinius defeats Daia and becomes sole Eastern Augustus and together Constantine and Licinius as Western and Eastern Augusti issue the Edit of Milan which would now tolerate all religions particularly allowing Christianity to come out of hiding and be acceptable in Roman society. The peace in the empire though would not come to last as Constantine and Licinius would turn on each other leading into another civil war which Constantine defeated Licinius first in a naval battle in 323 and finally in 324 in Thrace making Constantine I the Great now the sole ruler of the Roman Empire; then in the following year (325) Licinius is executed by Constantine I who then organizes the First Christian Church Council of Nicaea that settles the doctrine of Orthodox/ Catholic Christianity in a meeting of several bishops all over the empire that lasts for months therefore declaring Arianism a heresy, then the following year (326) Constantine orders the death of his wife Fausta by suffocating in a hot bath. Not so long after, on May 11, 330 Constantine I turns the port of Byzantium in Thrace into the Roman Empire’s new capital in which it would be for the next 1,100 years therefore making the port of Byzantium into a metropolis naming it “Constantinople” after himself while at the same time his mother St. Helena recovers the true cross of Christ from Judea dying shortly after; meanwhile the original structure of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the original Hagia Sophia of Constantinople begins construction. In 337, Constantine I the Great is baptized a Christian though by an Arian bishop being the first Roman emperor to do so right before his death which left the empire once again in chaos. Following Constantine I’s death the empire was split among his 3 sons; the eldest Constantine II having the least important western provinces of Britain, Gaul, and Spain while the youngest Constans I having the biggest part including Italy, the Balkans, Greece, and North Africa while the Middle son Constantius II ruling from Constantinople had the east including Egypt though the brothers Constantine II and Constans I fought each other ending with Constantine II dead in 340 and Constans I in charge of the whole west, though in 350 Constans I was usurped by the general Magnentius and killed starting a war against the legitimate emperor Constantius II who defeats Magnentius in 353. Constantius II is then sole emperor but has to constantly fight off the Sassanid Persians in the east making his last surviving male cousin Julian as Caesar of the west in 355 and as Caesar Julian successfully halts a Frankish invasion into Gaul at the Battle of Strasbourg in 357 then is made Augustus by his army in 360 causing Constantius II to be outraged but before facing off Julian in battle, Constantius II dies in 361 naming Julian his successor, therefore Julian becomes the sole ruler of the Roman Empire and as a Pagan tries to return to the Pagan past. Julian however does not rule long enough as in 363 when leading a massive campaign against the Sassanid Persians he is killed at the Battle of Ctesiphon and with the Romans defeated, all their territories gained recently in the east is ceded back to the Persian king of kings Shapur II while the Romans with the commander Jovian elected as their new emperor return to Constantinople, though in 364 Jovian suddenly dies suffocating from sleeping beside a newly painted wall somewhere in Asia Minor making the soldiers proclaim the nearby general Valentinian as their new emperor but right when Valentinian I is made emperor he splits the empire with his younger brother Valens who is given the east while the older Valentinian takes the west to fight off several barbarian Germanic invasions from across the Rhine. With the brothers in charge of the empire, the future does not seem bright as in 365 a massive earthquake causes destruction in Crete, Greece, Egypt, Libya, Cyprus, and Sicily while at the same time Julian’s cousin Procopius usurps power in the east but is defeated and executed by Valens in 366, and in 367 a great conspiracy erupts in Britain in which the disloyal Romans plot to overthrow Roman rule with the help of the native Celts including the Picts of Scotland and Hibernians of Ireland as well as the Germanic Franks and Saxons from across the English Channel but in the next year (368), the western emperor Valentinian I through his general the Roman-Spanish Count Theodosius the Elder crushes the conspiracy and pacifies Britain once more. Valentinian continued his reign in the west fighting against Germanic raids from across the Rhine and Danube while Valens would focus on the problem of the Persian king Shapur II in the east, though after losing his patience in negotiating with the Germanic tribes of the Danube in 375 Valentinian I dies of a stroke caused by his own anger leaving the west to be ruled by his two young sons Gratian and Valentinian II while in the next year (376) Count Theodosius after quelling a Moorish rebellion in North Africa is executed for treason against the new emperors of the west and a new branch of the Goths known as the Visigoths emerge across the Danube borders of the east in the hundreds of thousands trying to seek refuge within Roman borders as their homeland north of the Danube is under attack by the nomadic Huns of Central Asia who have already captured and destroyed the Roman client Bosporan Kingdom in Scythia north of the Black Sea in 370. Rather than invading the east, the Visigoths led by their king Fritigern are let inside Roman borders but prove too hard to feed and manage that the Goths had to sell their children fo dog meat while some Gothic leaders were tricked and executed leading them to turn against the Romans causing the eastern emperor Valens to declare war on the Visigoths leading to his own downfall at the Battle of Adrianople in 378 where Valens is outnumbered, defeated, and killed leaving Constantinople without an emperor and open for an attack, the following year (379) the Persian king Shapur II who had ruled since birth dies. With Valens dead his nephew Gratian ruling the west sends the young Theodosius, son of Count Theodosius to rule the east from Constantinople in 379 and as eastern emperor Theodosius I begins a crusade against Paganism in order to make Nicene Christianity now the official religion of the Roman world at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 in which the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is added as well. In his reign, Theodosius I settles the Visigoth issue by making peace with Fritigern and integrating them in the Roman army as the Federated troops or Foederati in exchange for land to settle in and in such a short time these barbarians in the Roman army would rise up to powerful positions like generals; at the same time the western emperor Gratian is assassinated in 383 by the usurper in Britain Magnus Maximus leaving the west to his younger brother Valentinian II while Theodosius I defeats Magnus Maximus in Italy in 388, then in 390, the people of Thessalonica rebel against the Goth army in the city killing making Theodosius I punish the people by having a Gothic horde attack the city and kill them making him guilty which the bishop of Milan St. Ambrose has Theodosius begin to make decrees banning Paganism and destroying temples. In 392 Valentinian II is found mysteriously dead as his Frankish general Arbogast had chosen a new emperor for the west named Eugenius and in 394 Theodosius I defeats Eugenius and Arbogast at the Battle of Frigidus in today’s Slovenia while in the same year abolishes several Pagan institutions including the Olympics in Greece and the Vestal Virgins in Rome all before he meets his end in January of the next year. In 395, Theodosius I died in Milan as the last ruler of a complete Roman Empire and with his death, the empire was now to be formally divided east and west as separate empires whereas the older son Arcadius took the east ruling from Constantinople and the younger son Honorius took the west ruling from Milan, though both due to their young age would be under regents, Arcadius under the general Rufinus and Honorius under the half-Roman half-Vandal Flavius Stilicho who wanted a untied empire making him assassinate Rufinus in 395 though the Western Empire will not have much longer to live and the east would continue on for the next thousand years.

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The Roman Empire divided (260-274)

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Division of the Roman Empire in the Tetrarchy (293-324)