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Alternate History

431-452 CE (Superpowers)

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lPost-Caesares Boni:
1148 (395)-1184 (431)
End of a Dynasty:
1184 (431)-1205 (452)
Reign of Draco:
1205 (452)-1238 (485)

Rome faced its greatest threat for centuries in the form of the Huns, a powerful tribe from the far east. Gaius Aurelius Scipio was the successor to Antonius and would become known for expanding Mediterranean docks and for being in power when the Huns finally invaded. Although he would not see the conflict through to its end, he would be the last emperor of his family to rule from Rome as his younger brother would die on the frontlines of the conquest of Magna Germania. Leaving no heir, he would die to an empty throne and force his empire to enact other measures to maintain central authority.

Caesar Scipio (431-447)

Eldest surviving son of Caesar Antonius, Gaius Aurelius Scipio came to power at a weak point in Roman history. The Treasury was strained by its regular expenditures on the military and on hospitals, among a number of other commitments that the Senate was forced to uphold to maintain its public image. As a result, the Treasury was nearly empty and only a few public works projects could be enacted at any given time. Antonius had focused his efforts on a military academy and various monuments for propaganda in the face of growing fears of Germanic invaders but Scipio would devote available funds during his reign to the Mediterranean. Piracy was reaching a high point as the navy had languished and trade had continued to become concentrated in ports. Scipio had a love for the sea and was acutely aware of the worsening crisis, feeling compelled to strengthen the grip of Rome on its internal sea while bolstering maritime trade to finance these endeavors. For his work, Scipio earned the title Princeps Nautici (Emperor of the Sea), a name that would be long remembered through the indelible mark he left on the Classis Romanis (Roman Fleet).

Carthage

Receiving news of his father's death during his governing of Africa Proconsularis, Scipio was forced to end his term early and go to Rome for recognition by the Senate as princeps civitatis. His time in Carthage likely inspired him to renew the city, after it had failed to recover from a serious epidemic in the 3rd century, and emphasized the seriousness of the pirate threat to Mediterranean merchants, about which senators in Rome knew even though the issue was not salient enough to motivate a response. Once he had a position of power, Scipio took measures to secure and expand Carthage in light of this threat.

Building on the spot of the old port, Scipio commissioned the Grand Harbor of Carthage as a substantial increase in capacity and available maneuvering space. He believed that if firm naval outposts were present at strategic points along the internal coastline, the navy could more easily combat piracy and stabilize the sea. At this time, Carthage had seen better days. Although its military academy prospered, it took the brunt of most African plagues and its shipyards had fallen into disuse since their heyday under its former empire. The sack of Carthage by Visigothic pirates in 429 aggravated its troubling times but only prompted a half-hearted response from the Senate that amounted to little. Scipio resolved to return the city to its former glory. The new portus (harbor) had more than six times the capacity of the old and could simultaneously handle hundreds of commercial vessels and would ensure that traders coming from both ends of the Mediterranean could continuously pass through Carthage.

Adjacent to this commercial port, a military port was constructed that would permit the docking of warships during peacetime. The hope was that naval battles would take place far from Carthage, once other naval defenses were established throughout the rest of sea, but these war docks were still designed to resupply ships between battles. In practice, the docks primary purpose was as a storage site for warships, with enough space to hold and service well over 100 galleys at any given time.

A shipyard of ten drydocks was built a half a kilometer west of the ports. Some of the most adept shipwrights in the empire were brought by the emperor to work in this shipyard, concentrating production skills in one location. Scipio's efforts set a precedent for future emperors and the Senate, who would continue to bring expert shipwrights to this region. The drydocks were arranged back to back in two columns of five. Resting on artificial stone supports, the shipyard stuck out from the edge of Carthage like a precarious cliff - in the form of a 277 m by 185 m peninsula emerging from the land.

Grand Harbor of Carthage

Painting of the Grand Harbor from 832 CE

The Grand Harbor itself stretched out from within the coastline of the city. As its focus was a 1.48 km diameter circular wharf with a 285 meter thick rim within which ships could dock to release their cargo. At the center of this ring was the imperitus umbilicus, a control center for all of the port's activities. Every captain docking his ship in Carthage had to procure the equivalent of a parking permit before he could enter the city for his business. Stretching 3 km from this ring were the major docks, intended for larger vessels. The walls that enclosed this artificial lake of sorts rose 50 meters above sea level and were 23 meters thick near the base. Whereas 140 ships could dock inside the ring, the major docking area could handle an additional 60 ships of literally any size that would be seen in the day. Even the docks of Alexandria paled in comparison to the Magnus Portus Carthagorum.

Along the outer edge of the major docks were watchtowers bristling with heavy ballistae, missile weapons able to fire 45 kg projectiles, and polyboloi, semi-automatic crossbows able to fire every six seconds. The former were immediately visible to any ships approaching the harbor, intimidating pirates and comforting honest merchants. Of course, the presence of the nearby military docks made these defenses seem superfluous, but they city were a comfort for a city still reeling after being sacked by pirates. With both safeguards, even the largest navy in the world would have trouble penetrating into the Grand Harbor to attack Carthage.

As an extension to the Academia Bellica of Carthage, Scipio added facilities in 439 for a Ludus Nauticus (Nautical School) to serve as the primary naval staff college for the empire. Officers of the navy would be trained here just as officers of the Legion were being trained in the Ludus Bellicus of the War Academy.

Other port towns to benefit from the reign of Scipio were Massiala in Narbonensis and Tyrus in Syria, although the expansions of their ports were more modest than those of Carthage. All of these ports were only a prelude to the vision that Scipio had for the maritime commerce of the Roman community. His greatest project was a focal point for traders sailing in the Mediterranean.

Melita

Strategically located in the Mare Internum (Internal Sea), the archipelago of Melita (Malta) was the site of a civil construction project aiming to create a centralized hub of commerce. To begin, the original ~35,000 inhabitants were relocated, from 435 to 439, to beautiful estates throughout Italia and Hispania. Only moderate resistance was met under this incentive. The majority of these citizens would sell their temporary residences to return to their homeland once the state finished improving the island. This stage of the project alone cost 40 million denarii, as ownership of the estates went to the new residents, but it would later ensure a moderately wealthy core populace of over 30,000 citizens for the new city.

Working with a tabula rasa (blank slate) of 316 km² and with no social restrictions, Scipio demolished virtually all of the existing buildings on the islands, leaving only the ancient temples and hypogeums for posterity. With no permanent freshwater lakes or rivers on Melita, a major bay in the southeast, the Bay of Sirocco (Marsaxlokk), was chosen as a port devoted to importing necessities such as grain, olive oil, and potable water. The vision Scipio had for Melita would render it completely dependent on imports for sustaining its population, as he was building the world's first nisipolis (island city).

Meanwhile, teams of redemptores (contractors) wove a carefully designed network of viae (roads) spreading across the entire surface of the island, primarily branching from Sirocco and the natural harbor on the north side. These roads would be the arteries of the planned city. If Sirocco was its mouth, the sewers its veins, and the roads its arteries, then this natural harbor would be the heart of the city, site of a grand commercial port known as the Portus Neptunianus.

The Neptunian Harbor encompassed roughly 4 km² of sea as its harbor space. The prominences of land that form the natural harbor point toward one central 3 km long prominence, where most of the infrastructure for the seaport would be located. Once finished, this port would be capable of simultaneously accepting thousands of vessels of various sizes. Such numbers are an order of magnitude larger than other contemporary harbors.

On the natural prominences, a number of public warehouses (mercia receptacula) were built for storing cargo before selling in the local markets or trading with passing merchants. Any merchant vessel doing business on the island was forced to sell his goods to the curator (commissioner) of one of the port warehouses, who had exclusive trade rights to import goods to the city. These commissioners were employed by the Senate and instructed to work with owners of tabernae (shops) on the island to meet local demand. Similarly, merchants would come to Melita to buy goods for transport elsewhere. Only a small profit was made by the warehouses on each sale and purchase over this maritime import-export market. Revenue was only impressive due to the sheer volume of trade, as nothing except grain and water could enter the island except by their services.

A mercantile chokepoint of this sort had no precedent anywhere else in the empire. Scipio intended to gain several benefits by using this system:

  • with a large volume of exports, the Senate would have high annual profits (e.g. 9.3 million denarii in 485)
  • trade volume through Melita could be recorded and tracked to within several modii of cargo, giving the state a better idea of how much cargo is traded in the Mediterranean (by estimation of the proportion of trade going through Melita alone)
  • maritime trade would increase since the guarantee of a close buyer of any cargo coming out of Africa Proconsularis, Italy, Greece, and Egypt lowered the risk of trading by sea and encouraged entrepeneurial expeditions

Traveling by sea carried a host of risks such as piracy and storms. Every additional mile of a journey added to this risk, namely a personal and financial risk in the case of merchants. In a strong sense, maritime trade was an investment with certain risks - some amount would be spent on a boat, crew, and cargo, expecting a large possible return should the voyage succeed. Even if the vessel survived the trip there was always the chance that there would be no buyer or an agreed buyer would break his deal. Knowing that there was a guaranteed buyer in Melita (i.e. the warehouses) drastically reduced the risk of trading by sea. When a merchant once had to travel from Tyrus to Valentia, he could now choose to risk only half that distance by selling his cargo in Melita and getting a predictable price for his efforts (the Senate advertised their prices in ports around the empire).

For this reason, the profits gained from these warehouses represented payment for handling an investment and reducing its risk (while such terms would be foreign to Ancient Romans, this accurately describes what they were doing here).

Once a good was stored in a warehouse in Melita, about 90% would be sold to other merchants for a marginally higher price, exporting it to the rest of the empire. The rest would be sold in the markets of the islands.

Outdoor markets were spread throughout the seaport but these only distributed a fraction of what goods came to the islands. Covering nearly a quarter of a square kilometer, the Mercatus Antonini (Market of Antoninus) was the primary location for local residents to buy their goods. This marketplace was a multi-tiered building with hundreds of shops operating from within its halls (i.e. a primitive shopping mall). The activity of the internal market rivaled the Mercatus Traiani in Rome, with people coming from across the city for their weekly shopping.

From the viewpoint of demographics, Melita was an oddity. Not only were most of its people now cives (citizens) but their average annual income became around 240 denarii, with a firm ~40,000 people in 449 being of the equestrian order or higher. This state of affairs would mellow down over time as the wealth given to the populace deteriorated and people emigrated. The year 449 is when Melita entered a more regular period of growth, with major construction on the port and markets being finished. At this time, it was home to about 170,000 people concentrated around the Portus Neptunianus.

Such a large population living on a dry island created a bizarre situation. Virtually all of the water used by inhabitants came from a 320 million gallon cistern placed at the highest point on the main island. Filling this cistern required an entirely new market to arise, one dedicated to bottling water into jars before shipment to Melita. Over fifty ships came to the Port of Sirocco daily to import the minimum 13 million liters of water required to maintain water reserves. When full, the cistern could sustain the island for over a month, with adequate measures for restricting water consumption. Altogether, this maintenance had an annual cost of 2.3 million Dn for paying the crew of ships purchased as a specialized merchant fleet, the Classis Lacanus. They would transport jugs of water from Italy and North Africa, fulfilling the water needs for the entire island.

In addition to the more than fifty cargo ships bought for this fleet, the emperor commissioned forty ships from the drydocks of Carthage to work in the national postal service. The overall speed of 4 knots for the sturdy liburnae made them the ideal choice for this service, crossing distances of up to 120 km per day.

The way liburnian ships were integrated into the postal service was simple. There already existed several overlapping zones for the cursus clabularis, which would cheaply deliver letters and would transport packages at a slow 30 km per day. A letter could be handed over from one zone to another until it reached its destination. As a supplement to this method, packages and letters destined for a city outside a zone would be transported to its designated port town, including the settlements of Carthage, Ostia, Byzantium, Athens, Tyrus, and Alexandria for specific regions. Postal liburnae would be circulating the Mediterranean with one passing each station navalis every three weeks. Mail would accumulate in the interval before being loaded for transport to its intended destination. This service was notoriously late in the months of fall.

Since there was never enough mail to fill one liburna, merchants would often rent space to transport their goods. Revenue from this mercantile service allowed the postal service to retain its profitability even with the 450,000 Dn operating cost of these ships.

Overall, these two new fleets were sufficient infrastructure for Scipio to institute a procedure for providing disaster relief in the form of an emergency response. About 2,800 modii (25 tonnes) of grain could be transported by a single liburna and there were measures in place to mobilize no less than twenty within weeks of a disaster or general famine affecting citizens. Census data could be used to estimate how much grain would be needed, as peregrini (foreigners) would be ignored for relief. Although this could only support ~16,000 people for a week, many lives could be saved by such efforts. To supply such a response, the empire would dip into its reserves on Melita, cutting into its profits there in order to lessen the impact of a famine.

Expansion of the navy

Although civil engineering is always expensive for a pre-industrial civilization, Rome was wealthy enough to afford an expansion of its military on top of the construction and public services (although this would ensure that the treasury remained empty). Lately, the navy had fallen into disrepair, with less than a hundred ships in various states of decay. The weakness of the Roman fleets had left the empire vulnerable to rampant piracy and over his reign, Scipio made every attempt to combat this threat to Rome. Scipio not only scuttled all old ships for replacement by new vessels straight out of the drydocks of Carthage but he separated Roman fleets from the Legion and founded the Classis Romanis (Roman Navy), dividing its forces into five regional high fleets.

Each High Fleet (Grecis) was under the command of a Procurator Navalis, known within the ranks as a Magistrasus for being the only magisterial position in the navy. These procuratores were of equestrian rank and reported directly to the emperor. To maintain the cohesion of these high fleets, Scipio designated one as Procurator Admirabillis to indicate seniority and authority in ship movements combining multiple high fleets.

The five high fleets were: the Black Sea Fleet (Grecis Euxinis), the Red Sea Fleet (Grecis Rubricanis), the Britannic Fleet (Grecis Britannicus), the Western Fleet (Grecis Occidentalis), and the Eastern Fleet (Grecis Orientalis). Also known as the Grecis Arabicus, the Red Sea Fleet oversaw Roman operations in the Mare Rubricum and the Oceanus Erythraeanus. This role meant supervising the activities of the Kingdom of Aksum and protecting traders selling their wares in India (albeit with meagre access to warships, reaching only 19 liburnae and 23 triremes by the death of Scipio).

The Mare Britannicus was patrolled by the Britannic Fleet. For fighting piracy, this high fleet usually had about 14 liburnae and for moving soldiers between the island provinces, it had anywhere from 20 to 120 heavy transports over the years. Overall, the various fleets were not designed with emergencies in mind. Rome knew very well what threats existed in its neighborhood and there was nothing that could come by sea which could not be countered after a few years of shipbuilding - now that proper facilities existed for such purposes. The Carthaginian dockyards were expansive and efficient enough to create a small fleet in a relatively short span of time. With the entire Mare Internum (Internal Sea) in the process of being segregated from the rest of the world, Rome could afford to leave herself open on the high seas, once her bottleneck defenses were completed.

At the Bosporus Strait, north of Byzantium, Scipio erected a sea wall blocking ~80% of its width, with navigable space only at the center. Defenses at this point were cutting edge for the siege technology of the day. The chosen location for the wall was 14 km from the Golden Horn (Keras), at a point where the strait got no deeper than 60 meters and a foundation could be built directly on the sea floor. Constructed from heavy stone, the walls on either side of the navigable path were 31 m thick at sea level and slanted as terrestrial walls did to deflect artillery. No defenders could walk along its roof since the top of the wall was rounded for better defense. Instead, guards would move on scaffolding attached behind the wall, connecting exactly two dozen turret nests fitted with 75 kg ballistae for shredding approaching ships. These artillery pieces each had a limited field of fire so that the iron-rimmed opening for the nests could be small enough to structurally handle any barrage from medium-sized catapults.

Within the 60 m gap between the walls, there were three towers rising out of the sea. The two on the flanks were imposing but otherwise functionless while the central tower was topped by a statue of Jesus with arms outstretched. The sheer size of this forty meter statue was intended to show foreigners entering Roman seas "by whose grace such a mighty Empire could existt". For merchants coming to Rome, the statue was a frightening sight and many would be kept in awe afterward for the duration of their stay in the Roman world. In contrast, watchtowers were erected on either side of the Pillars of Hercules.

With the two major entrances to the Internal Sea now completely regulated, Scipio could achieve his master plan of a military isolation of the Mediterranean from the world at large. No ship would enter these waters without approval from the Legion. For now, this isolation merely meant that unrecognized ships needed to stop outside the wall for inspection before proceeding, but options were now available for more extreme measures.

With the completion of these structures in 434, Scipio led a nationwide procession of ships from Alexandria to all the major cities along the eastern coast before a grand celebration in Rome. His message was that Rome had not relinquished her grasp of the seas and that piracy on the Mediterranean would face the showcased navy.

Invasion of the Huns

In 444, Rome's greatest fears were realized. The Huns invaded. Led by their High King Attila, these nomads crashed like a tsunami against the frontiers of the empire, invading with the collective forces of Magna Germania. Attila's Hunnic Empire had grown over the last four decades to encompass 24 million Germanic and Scythian people, from various cultures. With access to technology that compared with Persia and with armies numbering in the millions of men, the Huns were the greatest absolute threat that Rome had ever faced in her long history.

Unbeknownst to the Legion, the ultimate goal of the Huns was to capture Rome as their new capital. They had little intelligence on the Roman Empire but they had heard that it was governed from the largest and most luxurious city to ever exist. If this city could be captured and Italy taken for settling the Hunnic people, then this empire would have had its throat torn out and the Huns would possess a marvelous territory from which to build a new empire. It was inconceivable that the Romans would field an army greater than Attila's horde and, therefore, he reasoned it was impossible for the empire to defeat him in battle.

Attila first attacked a point along the Vallum Raetianum. Nothing of his forces was held back. Legionaries along the wall could do little against the onslaught of catapults, horsemen, and spears bearing down upon their position. There was only one chance factor that gave the Romans an edge, albeit nowhere near the advantage required to achieve victory.

Over the last century, philosophers in Alexandria had been experimenting with petroleum-based fuels derived from a formula used by the Athenians in the time of Thucydides. This original Fire of Athens consisted of a variety of compounds and so these were tried in different proportions for several decades before a liquid mixture was found that burned hard and would not be extinguished by projection through air. The resulting liquid, known as hygron pyr (liquid fire), could be projected at a distance from certain high-pressure displacements pumps (siphones) similar to those used for pumping water from fire engines. By lighting the fuel as it releases from a siphon, the Romans had invented an effective flamethrower.

By good fortune, the Legion had been testing a mobile version of the hygron pyr on German forests that year and there were a number of prototypes on the Raetian Wall when the Huns invaded. Half an hour into the battle, one of these was able to be taken to the breach in the wall to bathe the invaders in liquid flames. Although the event would be traumatic for the barbarians - who could not conceive of how such a weapon was possible - it only killed a few hundred Huns before being overwhelmed. Were it not for how long it took to move the entire horde through the gap opened in the wall, the hygron pyr would not have even seen action that day and the Huns would never have witnessed its awe-inspiring power.

Scouts who had fetched the weapon were also sent along the wall to warn the legions about the invasion. They brought news of a sea of barbarians breaking through the border like flood waters from a bursting dam. General Lucius Camius Venerus led his three legions in Pannonia to intercept the Huns near Augusta Vindelicorum, using the highways to cross the intervening space from Vindobona to Raetia (i.e. ~500 km) in a mere 10 days. Meanwhile, the Huns were traveling at a pace of about 5 km per day and were still miles away from the provincial capital, if they would even go in that exact direction. Camius sent scouts to get a better idea of the enemy forces. His scouts returned with news that the advancing barbarian army stretched almost as far as the eye could see - they estimated the Huns had about one million soldiers. The general wisely cancelled his plans for a surprise attack and worked to consolidate his forces with the troops requested from Rome.

News had reached Rome from Vindobona only three days after Camius had left with his legions. Caesar Scipio immediately sent an order to the limes germanicus and the limes tyranensis to bring all of their legions to Italy, leaving only a few auxiliaries to watch the wall. One adviser recommended that some legions be left at the other borders in the event this invasion was a ruse but his cautionary advice was rejected once numbers for the invading army were relayed to Rome (if a million men were being devoted to a mere trick, then God help the empire). Messengers reached both destinations by the end of five days, meaning the Huns had been in Roman territory for 18 days and were now within miles of Augusta Vindelicorum (although the horde was too unwieldy to use the highways, Attila knew enough to follow them to major population centers).

Meanwhile, Camius had received word from Scipio, along with several hundred diverse artillery pieces, to attack the horde before it reached the city - not to prevent its capture, but to delay the Huns from reaching Italy, as they would likely devote several days to recovering their stamina after a difficult battle before besieging a walled city. This was the best opportunity to slow down the enemy forces, albeit by the sacrifice of three legions (the city would also be sacrificed but it could never have been saved).

Once Camius was certain that the Huns had seen the city, he led 15,600 legionaries and 35,880 auxiliaries, assisted only by the 360 manuballistae and 85 polybolos along the city wall, in an assault. Only the snipers were in range of the primary clash but they alone could maintain a kill rate of ~700 enemy soldiers per minute. For his part, Camius advanced with his legionaries in a wedge formation - specialized for fighting masses of disorganized infantry - while his auxiliaries attacked from the opposite side. His tactics attempted to force the enemy to fight on two fronts, rendering their poor command structure incapable of giving them clear directions (as troops would be torn between enthusiasm for the original goal in the south and orders to focus on each of the two fronts in the east and west). Although the Huns were confused for a few minutes, Attila rallied a third of his forces to follow the easily recognizable siege towers approaching the walls while the rest concentrated on the clearly weaker auxiliaries.

Not anticipating any skillful redirection on the part of his enemy, Camius did was surprised by the early loss of his western flank. His only warning was a sudden resurgence of the horde against his own forces about ten minutes into the battle. Meanwhile, the siege engines had reached the wall and were able to deliver hundreds of thousands of troops over the fortifications through their siege towers, despite the Huns losing nearly 9,000 men from the concentrated fire of Roman ballistae. The city fell before the battle out in the field had even ended.

The wedge formation of the legions relied on fighting along a single front that would slowly be moved forward by their virtually unstoppable wall of shields. During the Iceni uprising of 61 CE, this same tactic had allowed only 10,000 legionaries to kill 80,000 out of an even larger disorganized force, with the loss of only 400 men (200 killed for every dead Roman). Unfortunately, in this case, once his western flank fell, Camius found himself being attacked from behind by Attila's cavalry before being entirely surrounded by the enemy infantry. With his forces crumbling around him, Camius reorganized one of his legions into a circle, removing any advantage the Huns would gain from flanking.

When the rest of the legionaries were dead, this last legion slowly retreated from within the horde, eventually escaping to the open plains. Before they could march away from the city, the legionaries were hit by one last cavalry charge that they repelled with their pilia (spears) but not without losing a quarter of the remaining men. Entering Italy with 3,400 legionaries, Camius was applauded for his efforts, despite failing to delay the siege of Vindelicorum. Rome now knew that their enemy had a strong and effective leader, who could handle even an unwieldy horde of barbarians. This king would pose a proper challenge to the Legion.

Although Camius had escaped, the Battle of Augusta Vindelicorum was a disaster. Rome lost over 10,000 legionaries, about 36,000 auxiliaries, and an entire city to the invaders, who had only suffered losses of 48,000 Huns, including several hundred of their light cavalry. This carnage marks the deadliest battle in European history for the classical era and the greatest defeat for Rome in its history (although far from the bloodiest battle that the Legion would fight). Fortunately, even without a delay in taking the provincial capital, the Huns wasted enough time consolidating after the battle and siege that Winter came around and did not allow them to cross into Italy for another six months - exactly the delay the Senate wanted.

Despite effectively losing two legions, Rome was not discouraged from taking the defensive. The Senate passed a law forcing a random conscription of healthy male citizens in Italy, amassing 400,000 conscripts by Winter. Meanwhile, the Huns remained in Raetia, devastating the countryside, pillaging its farms to nourish its massive army. The poor province only had the capacity to sustain the additional people for a short time, although their destruction of cities and colonies meant that by the time the Huns had left Raetia, the population was a fraction of what it was in 443.

In Summer of 445, the Huns crossed the Alps into Italy. Following the main highway, the horde was expected to reach the city of Mediolanum (Milan) before proceeding south to Rome. This city would be an ideal location to ambush the Huns. While Rome expected the Huns to ignore the minor via consularis branching away from the main highway, the horde must have been more anxious for combat than they thought, going south to pillage Verona before returning onto the path to Milan. Sadly, the entire city of 105,000 citizens was massacred while the Huns feasted on its reserves of food. They left its infrastructure intact both for their future use and out of awe for the free availability of fresh water in the city streets. Requiring only enough water to drink, the army of one million easy survived off an aqueduct supply that could have only met the needs of about 160,000 citizens.

Well-fed and well-rested, the Germanic forces arrived at Milan in Spring of 446. Camius led the Roman forces in the city, after his appointment as Dux Generalissimus for the grand army. Bringing another four legions, from the limes arabicus, this grand army consisted of 15 legions, 160,000 auxiliaries, 650,000 conscripts, 15,000 knights, and several hundred artillerymen. Never before had the empire formed a single army of this size.

Camius devised a strategy that would guarantee a Roman victory. By its confidence in the plan, the Senate hesitantly refrained from summoning all of the legions for the defense of Rome. An outline of his plan goes as follows:

  • 50,000 auxiliary infantry are stationed between the wall and the horde, luring it forward; 10,000 sagittarii wait in hiding on the hills flanking the expected path of approach.
  • 14,000 sagittarii, 240 polybolos, 419 manuballistae, and two fire throwers are stationed along the wall for bombarding the enemy once they enter melee range with the bait.
  • 41,600 legionaries, 50,000 auxiliary infantry, and 200,000 conscripts are stationed to the east, obscured behind the walls of Milan and awaiting their signal to attack.
  • 36,400 legionaries, 20,000 sagittarii, and 450,000 conscripts are stationed to the west, obscured behind the walls of Milan and awaiting their signal to attack.
  • 15,000 soldiers from the order of knights wait in the distance for a sign of the enemy's retreat; they will cut down the fleeing soldiers once they break from the splintering horde.

In his overconfidence, Attila ordered a straight charge at what he expected was another small army to slow him down. Once his men had engaged the auxiliaries, they were met by a flurry of arrows and searing flames. The fire throwers were positioned on the far west and far east sides of the battle to soften the horde for the flanking ambush. East approached first, as the stronger of the two battle groups, while the archers in the west unleashed their first volleys. When this pressure had disoriented the western flank, the other legionaries with their conscripts joined the fray. Legionaries in the battle used the wedge formation again but with no chance of being surrounded, the tactic was brilliantly executed. Attila attempted to send his cavalry to outflank the eastern group but Roman snipers were prepared, halting their charge by taking out lead horses.

Huns had never faced warfare of this kind at any point in their history and even the brilliant Attila, whose tactics would have been effective against any other foe, was at a loss for how to handle the situation. A wall of infantry was keeping his own foot soldiers from hitting the archers on the ground and strange weapons were firing down from the wall onto his men and siege engines. Roman technology seemed almost to be magic to many of Attila's soldiers, with crossbow bolts appearing as if from nowhere and fire raining down from the heavens in great streams of light.

Caught in a meat-grinder, with fifteen legions on their flanks, the horde began to splinter from behind, with men fleeing in vain. When the majority of the barbarians were retreating, the Roman knights charge into battle, picking off stragglers. What remained of the Huns passed back between the archers on the hills and were cut down to pieces. Like shepherd dogs, the knights forced the remnants of the horde into small groups for capture when the legionary juggernaut regained ground on them.

All told, losses for the Hunnic army are estimated in the 600,000-750,000 casualty range, with almost all of the survivors being captured at the end. The battle was a clear victory for Rome. In comparison, the judicious tactics of Generalissimus Camius ensured a loss of less than 20,000 Romans, almost entirely from conscripts and auxiliaries. Most importantly, King Attila had been taking out by snipers, leaving the Hunnic Empire to his son, Ilek, who agreed to a ransom for the captured men.

Rome celebrated its victory with great feasts, the emperor declaring March 31 a national holiday. A humiliating and potentially fatal defeat had been avoided and everyone in the Eternal City breathed a collective sigh of relief. Justifiably, the Senate believed that the Huns had assembled the last great Germanic army - an army Rome had now defeated. In some sense, the Huns had conveniently concentrated all of the usual enemies of the empire into a single army, providing a clear target for Rome but the near strangling of Roman civilization was a great risk to suffer for this convenience.

Without disbanding the massive Roman army now stationed outside Mediolanum, Scipio convened the Senate in early November to discuss the matter of conquering Greater Germany. No major military force, he argued, was left in the region and there were fertile grasslands and rich forests to exploit. Conversely, some senators argued that the present frontiers were well-fortified and close to the military-industrial base. A consensus on the issue could not be reached. A month later, an emissary from the High King Ilek offered unconditional surrender of the Hunnic Confederation to the Roman Empire, in exchange for not pursuing hostilities against his people. As the Huns and their Germanic subjects were nomadic, Rome saw fit to demand their eternal emigration from Greater Germany as punishment for invading its empire. Ilek met the emperor to sign the Treaty of Vindobona, which guaranteed that any reversal of their punishment would be met by the extermination of their people. In this way, the emperor had ensured a steady mass exodus of the Germanic tribes, reflecting the mass migration that had started these difficult wars.

With the emptying of Germany, the Senate agreed to send Rome's armies for its conquest. When Scipio died a few weeks after the legions left Milan, his son was crowned Caesar Romulus Augustus in the town of Noviono in Germania Inferior. Romulus and his four legions were on their way to invade Germany, and the young man's first act as emperor would be to spread his forces for the operation. Fortunately, resistance was as thin as what remained of the population. Although the Huns had forced their Germanic subjects to migrate with them, there were so many that a number of tribes were left behind. Historical estimates put about 200,000 people in the whole of Greater Germany - those who were not taken by the Huns. Unfortunately, in a battle with guerrilla forces, a stray arrow found its way to the eye socket of the new emperor. He died in seconds.

Romulus was the only remaining son of Scipio and himself had no children nor an adopted successor, leaving a sede vacante in the Domus Augustana. Not long ago, Faustilon had enacted a law that prepared Rome for such an occasion. Should an emperor die without naming a successor, the Senate had authority to elect a new emperor from within its ranks. A popular assembly of the citizens of the city of Rome would decide on the lawfulness of this decision before all powers of Roman emperors would be passed on to the elected magistrate - a decisive yet cruel man named Gaius Julius Draconus.

Founding of the Toltec Conglomerate

Residents of the city-state of Yax Mutal welcomed a change of government to that of King Kich'en C'onle. His inventions had revolutionized their way of life and for this, many began to consider him a god. The lucidity of his speech and calmness of his demeanor in conversation only contributed to the awe that his people had for him.

With such acceptance, Kich'en had absolute power to reshape his small kingdom according to his vision. Unlike a large empire, Yax Mutal was not limited by royal funds, only the physical capacities of his people and the availability of resources. For works of construction, he needed only express his plans to the people and his 57,000 subjects would work together with him to bring his ideas to reality. As a philosopher of nature and an experimentalist, Kich'en could have no better circumstances.

As one of his first decrees, Kich'en made every Ok and Ajaw (days of the 20-day month) days for a morning assembly of all adult men at the foot of the Great Pyramid. Here Kich'en would explain his plans for the next ten days and what would be expected of them to realize these designs. His oratory skills are legendary among Toltec historians, as word of mouth kept up the traditional story that any who heard him speak were immediately convinced (a narrative that went to the point of ascribing preternatural powers to his very words). These tales are only part of the legend surrounding the historical person of Kich'en C'onle.

One of his first projects was to transition to organized farming over ten years. Farmers would only produce what their king demanded and he would decide where as well as when they planted. While Kich'en acceded to the farmers about where was the good land for planting, he contributed his own knowledge from studying plants and from three years spent farming. He had found that soil used for years to grow the same plant was consistently less fertile than unused soil. From this observation, he believed that allowing the soil to sit for a year would give it enough time to renew itself (testing this theory only on a small scale several years earlier). On this heading, he implemented widespread two-field crop rotation in every farm. To organize this new agricultural practice, fields distinguished in the system would be separated by wooden fence enclosures.

Together with general use of a mechanical reaper, this program magnified the yield of farmers affiliated with the city-state. The difference in output between Kich'en's people and their neighbors, for any year after 441, is staggering. Whatever excess foodstuffs was produced would be stored in granaries or traded with neighboring cities.

Trade was also regulated by Kich'en, since stored goods were held by the community rather than individuals. Overall, much of the operations of the city were collectivized and handed over to the authoritarian control of the king. During his reign, he would devote nearly all of his time to micromanaging his kingdom. Of course, no man can be an expert in every field and it is in fact Kich'en's greatest talent that he refers to those with experience when making executive decisions, rather than trying to plan and understand everything himself. Nevertheless, his memory and ability to connect the dots suited him for understanding what got explained to him and for utilizing such information for the good of the state. With traders, Kich'en gave them access to the storehouses with the restriction that they not exceed certain quotas that varied with circumstance. He also instructed them to seek certain goods from other cities, although he only occasionally made such requests.

Artisans received similar orders as farmers, producing what the king demanded of their particular expertise. In 432, sturdy stone and obsidian weapons were assembled before storage in a new public armory. Military training exercises for all able-bodied men in the city were held every five days, with the king taking part for the sake of solidarity and his own fitness. The idea of a standing army was not considered in any shape or form - the very concept was unthinkable in such a time period. However, if every man was trained for battle and if weapons were available, then a professional army could be formed at a moment's notice. By 435, the city had a reserve army of ~25,000 men, able to be equipped and mobilized within an hour. New techniques and technology had greatly reduced the need for farmers, freeing thousands of men for artisan work within the city itself. These were men that could spare the time for training and were a valuable addition to the reserves as agriculture improved.

Other artisans were hard at work beautifying and improving the city. Roads were rebuilt using concrete as well as traditional materials, an earthenworks wall was erected around the southern half of the city, and monuments were built to honor the gods. In 433, the king had his people construct a wooden and ceramic aqueduct from a nearby spring to the city. Its water would fill the massive existing reserves and flowed in fast enough to sustain double the current population, when combined with the wells.

Cement had become a common material for construction, both in repairing existing stone structures and erecting new buildings. Ox Te' Tuun soon became the sole city on the continent with a number of peculiar sights: goods were being carried in large quantities over short distances using wheeled carts; explosions would occasionally be heard going off as part of celebrations around the main temples and squares; water was freely available from unpressurized fountains dotting the streets; and copper jewelry adorned some buildings and many priests.

These were all considered gifts from Kich'en, even though they required the labor of the people to create. The people's zeal for their king seemingly knew no bounds, although one would imagine that these limits were stretched when Kich'en ordered them to attack a neighboring city that had lately been aggressive. But he violated a longstanding tradition of their warfare - do not destroy an opponent. By tradition, battles were fought for the capture of sacrificial victims but in this unprovoked attack, Kich'en ordered the massacre of all able-bodied men, soldiers and civilians alike. Women and all but the youngest children were kept for sacrifices. As news of the massacre spread to the other cities, Kich'en knew he had their full attention and had made a strong statement that he ran a different kind of government than any past city-state.

Ajaw (kings) from six of the nearby city-states, including Ox Te Tuun (Calakmul) and Lam'an'ain, were invited by Kich'en to broker an agreement of peace for the region. Other kings expected further violence from Yax Mutal and some had been alarmed by the abnormal way he gained power, but they were all eager to keep this new rogue state in check. However, they could not have prepared for this visit. The sights of the city did not compare with anything in their kingdoms. Even before Kich'en came to power, Yax Mutal had a kingdom that outclassed any other city, but its recent advancements put it in another league entirely.

Kich'en explained to the other kings that his actions were necessary for the security of his city - those whom he destroyed were expressing envy of his city's wonders. He told them that these wonders could be shared, if they pledged fealty to him. His words were punctuated by the citywide military exercises underway during their visit. At his palace, he shared his vision of uniting his culture under a single banner and spreading their influence across the horizon. Then he offered them a plaque with which to sign an agreement conglomerating their seven city-states into one kingdom, with Kich'en as high king. This union marked the formation of the strongest civilization on the continent, surpassing even the mighty Teotihuacan.

Kich'en became K'uhul Ajaw (Divine King) of the conglomerate, ruling the lesser ajaw as absolute monarch. His reforms for his own city were carried over to the populations of all seven cities - a combined total of nearly 340,000 people. In the jungles, a further 8 million people were loyal to the conglomerate (tlah'tocahque). The lesser ajaw were tasked with monitoring the reforms taught by Kich'en and to report grievances of the common folk to the capital. Kich'en intended to be a highly responsive ruler, one who reacts quickly to the needs of his people whenever possible.

While every subject of the conglomerate began to enjoy the benefits of mechanical harvesting, toothpaste, concrete, and the wheel, among other conveniences, there were difficult demands made on them and Kich'en could not motivate everyone in person as he continued to do with his own city. The transition to collectivization was slower elsewhere but the gradual rise in national manpower made a world of difference. Construction projects grew in scale as a larger number of people could be brought to contribute to the same task. There was also a larger pool of specialized labor from which to choose.

Concrete blocks were produced en masse from one city, fueling the construction of roads between cities. Aqueducts were strung through the jungles, bringing fresh water to the cities and fostering a political understanding that the cities were connected under the new regime. There would be no returning to old ways when one cities water came from a spring in another's territory. The rural populations gradually moved into the cities as farm output skyrocketed and as amenities of the cities became more enticing. By the time twenty more cities joined in 439, the population of the city of Yax Mutal had reached 130,000, surpassing Mutul whose population growth was only just started to accelerate.

This empire expanded faster than roads were being built. Although there was political, technological, and cultural unity, each city operated as an individual unit, permitting greater efficiency than if control was more centralized around the capital. Ajaw of cities need only implement the reforms and projects ordered by Kich'en for all to be well. With every urban population putting its men into the regular military exercises, military reserves had soared above 100,000 available troops. For security, all weapons for the military were stored at the armory in the city of Yax Mutal, for distribution in case of war. Other cities only had enough weapons to facilitate training exercises during peacetime.

This time of peace lasted a long time. After the little display with its first city and its rapid acceptance of new member states, Kich'en was receiving requests for conglomeration from across the peninsula. None, it seemed, would need violent persuasion. However, it was clear that peaceful union would not suffice everywhere. For all its growth, the Conglomerate still lay under the shadow of Teotihuacan, the commercial power of the subcontinent. This obstacle to the dominance of their [Maya] civilization would be dealt with in due time. For now, the country enjoyed the fruits of its own internal commerce.

Trade among the city-states was informal before the rise of one ruler among the nation. Whenever a farmer or an artisan had excess goods someone would usually end up purchasing what was available before transporting these wares to nearby cities for trade where there was no such excess in that product. Now that roads connected city states and a single government hung over them, general commercial ties were formed between traders. These could persist through the year and allow specialization of production - e.g. Ox Te Tuun began manufacturing the hunting and military tools for the whole country - for local comparative advantages in the production of numerous goods.

Nevertheless, Teotihuacan held the commercial advantage of custom. Local traders were in the habit of bringing their wares to this magnificent city and its reputation was still stronger than the Conglomerate. In 451, Kich'en sent a diplomatic team to gain an audience with the head of state for Teotihuacan. Without warning, the group snatched the leader and fled back to the conglomerate. The next morning, a strike force numbering 45,000 arrived at the unfortified city to safely usher in K'uhul Ajaw Kich'en. The great man made a speech to the people of the city, offering them a primary place in his empire. His rousing speech brought them over to his cause. Preparations were made to transfer royal residence and authority to Teotihuacan.

Before that day, the empire was governed with each city as an autonomous unit allied to Kich'en and his vision. While the shift of capitals allowed them to retain much of their autonomy, important as it was to the country's efficiency, political power was definitively focused in one place. Constructing a grand monument in Teotihuacan's city square, people from across the land gathered to see all the kings pledge their cities to Kich'en and his family line.

The state continued to grow in number of cities in 452 with the people enjoying what historians call a Golden Age of a Golden Age. On the continent, a third of all commerce occurred within or with the conglomerate. Standard currency remained the cacao, both the currency's name and a description of what it was, a bean. Slowly but surely, other cities in the region began to understand what had happened to the city-states and Teotihuacan. When they did, fear became the common state of affairs.

Statistics for the World in 452 AD

Bolstered by a strong Rome, the population of the world in 452 CE was rather high. Were Rome in decline, there would have been 50 million fewer people in world. As matters stood, the empire held a third of all humans. Persia also became stronger through trade with Rome, despite the occasional war or embargo. Most of all, the Kingdom of Aksum had grown strong from Roman commerce. China went on as though nothing were happening in Rome, as did Arabia to some extent.

  • Global population: 281 million
  • Life expectancy: 24 years

Roman Empire

  • Population: 93 million (33.1% of global population)
  • Area: 7,113,000 km²
  • GDP: 7.2 billion denarii (~$72 billion US)
  • Treasury: 4 million denarii (~$40 million US)
  • Life expectancy: 38 years
  • Urbanization rate: 20-30%
  • Legislature: 600 senators
  • Government revenue: 421 million denarii (~$4.21 billion US), 5.85% of GDP
  • Military spending: 260 million denarii (61.8% of revenue or 3.61% GDP)
  • Class System:
    • Patrician: 13,700 aristocratic cives
    • Equestrian: 1,250,000 cives
    • Middle-Class Plebeian: 16 million cives
    • Lower-Class Plebeian: 26 million cives
    • Non-citizens: 42 million peregrini
    • Slaves: Eight million servi
  • Military size: 145,600 Legionaries, 230,000 auxiliaries, 10,000 praetorian guards, and 310,000 conscripts still in service for the conquest of Greater Germany

Rankings among kingdoms:

  • Wealth: 1st
  • Production: 1st
  • Population: 1st
  • Area: 1st

Toltec Conglomerate

  • Population: 17 million (6.0% of global population)
  • Area: 1,050,000 km²
  • GDP: ~$15 billion US
  • Life expectancy: 40 years
  • Urbanization rate: 10-15%
  • Militia Size: ~630,000 men at any time in active service, with 100,000 more in reserve

Rankings among kingdoms:

  • Technology: 1st
  • Human Development: 1st
  • Military: 2nd (after Jin China)

Aksum Kingdom

  • Population: 13 million (4.6% of global population)
  • Area1,360,000 km²

Sassanid Persia

  • Population26 million (9.2% of global population)
  • Area: 3,120,000 km²

China (Liu Song and Yuan Wei Kingdoms)

  • Population39 million (13.9% of global population)
  • Area: 4,080,000 km²


Index
Post-Caesares Boni:
1148 (395)-1184 (431)
End of a Dynasty:
1184 (431)-1205 (452)
Reign of Draco:
1205 (452)-1238 (485)

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