Here's a little map-profile that revisits a classic Alternate History concept: what if the Byzantine Empire ([link]
) survived? This is also a revisiting of sorts to my earlier days in alternate history writing/mapmaking back in the AH.com forums. Coincidentally, this particular map is heavily based on Isaac's Empire
) and I Am Skantarios
), and would like to thank the makers of those works for both their surprisingly good work and for inspiration in making this. This particular map by the creator of that Skantarios fic ([link]
) helped being this idea to life.
And as always, a disclaimer: this is not meant to be a political/religious/cultural piece of propaganda or whatnot. This is a work of fiction. All rights belong to their respective owners.
In any case, I hope you enjoy it!
-----Imperium Romanum. Basileia Rhōmaiōn.
Whatever form or name the Eastern Roman Empire has taken over the generations, it has stood the test of time as one of the world’s most enduring domains. But it was not always so. Whether the threat came from the Sassanids, Islamic armies or from conniving nobles, the Empire seemed constantly beset by enemies within and beyond its borders. The rise of the Komnenoi Emperors in particular came at the right time, bringing security and prosperity to a realm whose existence seemed poised for extinction. Yet not even they could fully stop the invasions and infighting that ate into its collective memory.
Another major turning point in the Empire’s history later on served to guarantee both its survival and reputation for centuries to come. In 1450, an ambitious, patriotic general by the name of Theodoros ascended the throne after an accident killed off the Palailogos line, marking the dawn of the Laskarid Dynasty. But it was his legendary (and infamous) heir who would come to define that era. Gifted, skilled but notoriously cruel against his foes, the man known to time as Skantarios launched a great campaign of conquest, conversion and retribution, all for the restoration of Rome. By the time his generals and successors finally finished that crusade in the late 16th Century, it had effectively reshaped Old World. Indeed, such was the power and grandeur brought about by those acts that not even the great Republican Turmoil of 1771 and the Laskarids’ bloody downfall in 1800 fully destroyed the Empire, setting the stage for the Second Restoration in 1830 under the Komnenos-Arpad line.
At present, the Roman Empire is still considered to be one of the leading powers of Europe; even if past its peak, it nonetheless possesses a stable sphere of overseas territories, protectorates and allies. While the Emperor/Empress still nominally wields absolute power and is head of the Imperial Orthodox Churches, in practice, the Empire is a constitutional monarchy with power exercised through the Senate and a complicated network of bureaucrats. Its people and rulers still emphasize their unbroken lineage to the Rome of Caesar, Constantine and Justinian, although they had long since embraced their Hellenistic heritage to the point of abandoning any pretenses to Latin. Yet even in light of that, the Romans consider themselves a cosmopolitan crossroad of cultures and faiths, all overlaid with a predominantly Greek veneer that tends to assimilate that diversity. This hasn’t stopped a handful of ethnic minorities, notably the Turks from pushing for ever greater autonomy if not outright independence, though the presence of something at least approximating classical democracy has so far prevented the situation from spiraling back into the dark days of unrest and infighting.
The legacy of Imperial expansionism meanwhile remains felt across Europe and the Middle East. Roman culture and citizens have ingrained themselves in a number of former territories such as Kurdistan, Armenia and the hybrid Romano-Kiev realms; the “Varangian Guard” is still highly regarded in the Imperial Legions. Even the Republican pretenders based in Italy, calling themselves the true
people of Rome, and the motley refuge of renegade nobles known as Gallia bear some traces of Greek culture and Orthodox thought. This sense of endurance also extends to the darker sides of those times however. Skantarios’ crusades had left deep scars in Islam, especially with the infamous sacking of Mecca by Roman forces; to this day, Muslims treat his name as a curse. The Reformed Catholic Church based in Pisa and its successor groups likewise have a love-hate relationship to their Imperial counterparts, although Roman efforts to reconcile the different faiths are bearing some fruit.
All this helps in explaining the Empire’s relationships with its neighbors. In the wake of the first Laskarids, the Romans have found close friends among the Hungarians, considering each other as brothers-in-arms despite cultural differences; the Empire to this day has a considerable Magyar minority and maintains special Hussar regiments. Their Russian comrades in Novgorod have also been instrumental in guaranteeing mutual, economic support, even with the occasional squabbles over cultural influence in Romano-Kiev. The rest of the Europe has not been as kind. In addition to the Republicans and other renegades, France, Germany, Iberia and the staunchly Catholic North Italy still bear deep grievances against the “Byzantine Greeks,” as they derisively call the Romans. Persia too finds common cause with these Continentals, forging their own small pact of Muslim nations to counter Constantinople. A mix of careful diplomacy and the involvement of more neutral European powers have so far prevented the situation from escalating to a point where it could lead to war. Perhaps the Empire may last a few more generations yet, if all goes well in this bright new century…