Alternate History

642-687 CE (Superpowers)

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Corvian Dynasty:
1348 (595)-1395 (642)
Reign of Tyrianus:
1395 (642)-1440 (687)
Early Tyrian Dynasty:
1440 (687)-1514 (761)

Victorious in the brief civil war, the Senate wasted no time in appointing the commander of its armies as Caesar, voting him a Triumph that would end with his inauguration. Generalissimus Tyrianus relinquished command of his men, as required of any general returning triumphantly to Rome, and arrived as the people of Rome were confirming the vote of the Senate. His election came with the request that the Senate choose his successor, in order to ensure continued benevolent leadership.'

Caesar Tyrianus (642-687)

Unlike the last dynasty, Caesar Tyrianus collaborated with the Senate, pledging to unite Rome against its new enemy. His predecessor had plunged the empire into bellum civile to try to maintain his hold on power but his failure allowed the empire to focus on the threat of Islam. On this front, Tyrian's first action was to appoint a new Generalissimus (most general commander of legions) and send him to lead the ten legions spread across the eastern provinces. When Caliph Umar invaded in 646 with a fleet that carried an army, his forces were repelled by this supreme commander and his men. With another great army defeated, the Caliphate would not be keen on continued conflict with Rome.

Peace in Arabia

After the Roman victory, Tyrianus opened a formal discussion with the Caliph (successor of Muhammed), imploring Umar to accept a treaty with Rome. Every army that had ventured forth from Arabia had been smashed by the Legion and, Tyrianus told him, every army in the future would meet a similar fate. Although he worked to replenish nine legions in lost manpower from the ongoing conflict, Tyrian presented the Legion as more powerful than ever before.

Without another large army and seeing the futility of fighting Romans, Umar acquiesced to Tyrian's offer of peace in exchange for trade concessions for Roman merchants and a Roman embassy from the Officium Barbarorum (Bureau of Barbarians) in Mecca to foster closer relations. Umar furnished the dignitatum arabicum (ambassador to the arabs) with a lavish mansion near the Masjid al-Haram of the holy city, privately hoping to convert the dignitaries to Islam. From Mecca, the ambassador had easy access to the capital city of Medina un-Nabi and was at the center of the great Muslim pilgrimages.

The Roman ambassador was treated like royalty by the Caliph, who often invited him to dinner with state officials and introduced him to men of importance through invitations to popular feasts. While the local people treated him with respect, the ambassador had nothing to fear anyway with his honor guard of twenty praetorians. These elite soldiers not only protected him but also ran his errands in the city, buying food and cloth for the embassy using Roman coin. A purse of ~300,000 denarii was allocated to the office of the dignitatum arabicum on a yearly basis, both paying his guards and permitting an expensive lifestyle in Mecca. Since Arabs accepted the denarius and aureus as legal tender, the embassy had no problem keeping up appearances.

Meanwhile, Caliph Umar had been revolutionizing the government of his Caliphate. Among other reforms, Umar organized Arab territories into provinces governed by a Wali (custodian); created political offices to assist each governor, namely the Katib (Principal Secretary), Katib-ud-Diwan (Military Secretary), Sahib-ul-Karaj (Revenue Collector), Sahib-Bayt-ul-Mal (Treasury Officer), Qadi (Chief Judge), and Sahib-ul-Ahdath (Police Chief); and established a welfare state to assist the elderly and the young, using a highly progressive form of taxation. With these high officials, Umar devised police forces, tax collection, censusespublic wages, currency (the Denar), and public courts for the people of Islam. Public officials were personally instructed by Umar to treat their subjects with respect and to avoid violence, at the risk of mistreatment. Governors were required to travel to Mecca during the regular hajj (pilgrimage) to give a chance for people to issue complaints. Careful records were taken for the activities of all of these offices and were kept in public archives for future reference.

Umar divided the Caliphate into 8 provinces: Arabia into Medina and Mecca; Persia into FarsKhorasan, and Azarbaijan; Iraq into Basra and Kufa; and Armenia became the province of Jazira. These provinces were further subdivided into 74 districts for close administration by public officials and better organization of taxation, welfare, and police forces. Altogether, the Caliphate had lands covering ~5.1 million km² and was home to around 17 million people of diverse cultures. There had never been a kingdom of its size near Rome and despite the Great Wall, its mere presence frightened Roman senators.

When Umar died in 651Ali ibn Abi-Talib, who many considered the rightful successor of Muhammed, was finally granted the title of Caliph. However, some believed that his election was a result of his supposed appointment by the prophet rather than coming from the agreement of the Islamic community, meaning they thought the Majlis al-Shura had been unlawfully pressured to elect him. For most of Ali's reign, disagreements between his supporters and opponents did not escalate to violence.

The reign of Ali was marked by emphasis on the equality of Muslims. Tax revenue was more evenly spent throughout all of the provinces, nepotism was heavily combatted at all levels of government, and the wealth and land of the elite in Medina was redistributed to some degree to the local poor. His efforts to put Persian Muslims on equal footing with Arabian Muslims made him popular in Iran even as his religious opponents gained ground in Arabia. The marriage of his son Husayn to a daughter of the last Sassanid Shah only magnified Persian support for the family of Ali.

Islamic civil war

Unfortunately, one of Ali's opponents assassinated him during a pilgrimage in 660. Disagreements within the Majlis instigated a Fitna (Islamic Civil War) between those supporting the election of Husayn ibn Ali and those opposing his election. However, more motivated this conflict than disagreement on who Muhammed chose as his successor. To some degree, the war had roots in racial conflict between Arabs and Persians, with Persia largely supporting Husayn and his wife. Persians wanted the capital of the Caliphate to be in their land but Arabs wanted to keep the capital at Medina.

This Fitna lasted eight years until the signing of a peace treaty between Husayn and the elected Caliph of Medina, Ibrahim ibn Hakkam. The border between their two caliphates was settled on the Euphrates, in the west, before the fortress of Kufa where the border goes south into the desert to incorporate the Bay of Larissa (Bay of Kuwait) in the Caliphate of Husayn. Historically, the state led by Husayn is known as the Fatimid Caliphate while that of Ibrahim is known as the Umayyad Caliphate.

After the Treaty of Mecca, the two caliphates existed for some time in mutual peace. Centered on Medina, the Umayyads led a largely Arab empire, whose populace mostly followed the Islamic faith. By contrast, the Fatimids faced long decades of working to convert their people and suffered constant incursions from beyond the Oxus river by Turkish tribes. At the same time, the Umayyads had an uneasy peace with the Roman Empire and were keen on spreading their faith to Africa and Europe.

Collapse of the Confederation

While Asia Minor was becoming a contested region, Eastern Europe slowly crumbled from the political, cultural, and geographic tensions between the regna (kingdoms) of the Confederation of Germania. In 664King Fuco of Lombardy refused to pledge fealty to the Kaisar Germanik (High King of the Germans). Although Rome had often opposed the Lombards, she urged her foederatus (vassal), the Kingdom of Venetia, to assist the Kingdom of Lombardy against the Kaisar, who had raised an army to force Lombardy to renew its oaths. These two mighty kingdoms beat the confederate army at the Battle of Vachestor, spurring the King of the Angles to break his oaths to the Kaisar. A defensive pact was mutually signed in 666 by King Fuco, the Emperator of the Venetians, and the King of the Angles, devoting their kingdoms to war until the Confederation could be dissolved or the threat it posed to their independence could be nullified.

Their Liberation War was not resolved until 681 once only five kingdoms and eleven augusties (Free Fiefs) remained part of the confederation. The victors allowed the rump state of the confederation to retain control of its land, without dissolving the powers of the Kaisar, as long as he relinquished his claims to authority over the Kingdom of LombardyKingdom of SaxonyThree Kingdoms of the Angles and the AndalsKingdom of the FranksKingdom of KievKhaganate of Bulgaria, and the Great Sarmatian Empire as well as all over the lesser lords of their kings.

Major events from the war include: the union of the Marcommanic Kingdom with the Frankish Kingdom through marriage; the conquest of the Gepid Kingdom by the Angles, followed by their union with the Kingdom of the Andals (formerly Vandals); and the usurpation of the throne of the Kingdom of the Alans by a Sarmatian lord who renamed his realm the Great Sarmatian Empire and claimed all land from the Borysthenes to the Tyras. Where once a powerful alliance of kingdoms stood, only a large patchwork of kingdoms remained, much to the amusement of senators in Rome.

Map of Eastern Europe (687)

Eastern Europe decades after the fragmentation of the Confederation

The successor states to the Confederation went through a few more decades of war until more stable borders were settled, by treaties and natural barriers. With Roman help, Venetia stood to gain the most, expanding far along the coast of the Mare Suebicum (Baltic Sea) and cutting off Lombardy from the lucrative maritime trade with Rome. Kiev kept most of its territories, with the eponymous capital still situated on a major delta emptying into a small bay of the Suebicum.

Perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the war for independence was the former Kingdom of the Alans, now calling itself the Magnum Imperium Sarmatianum under its own Qaysar. When other kingdoms were fighting over the heartland of the confederation, the ambitious Qaysar of Sarmatia led his army into Western Sarmatia to bring its natives into the empire and move his own people into the land by founding new towns. He also offered an autonomous status to the augusties rooted to the shores of the Pontus Auxeinus (Black Sea), meaning the great ports were exempt from taxation and military service in return for use of their harbors by Sarmatian merchants.

This arrangement gave Sarmatians some of the strongest outposts on the Black Sea, outmatched only by the cities of Bythinia and the all-mighty Byzantium. However, a third great power entered the sea as the original caliphate conquered the remainder of the Kingdom of Iberia and the Kingdom of Albania. These regions became the Emirate of Iberia and the Emirate of Azarbaydjan, territories with marginal independence within the larger Islamic empire.

Despite its size and irregular borders, Sarmatia was well-protected from its neighbors by a strong army and natural barriers. In the south, the empire found the Armenian Mountains where passage was only feasible through the Darial Gorge. When the forces of Islam reached the same mountain range in 659, they could not fight through the valley and turned around a year later due to the assassination of Ali. In the west, a tributary of the Borysthenes separated the Kingdom of Venetia from Sarmatia while the Borysthenes itself held back the remainder of the Confederation (in particular the Thoringian Kingdom). Another river, the Tanais, separated the eastern half of the Confederation from the core territories of the Great Sarmatian Empire. Finally, a vast and fertile delta of the River Attila, as well as the river itself, held back the hordes of the Bulgarian Khaganates and provided the leverage to make peaceful arrangements with the great nomadic tribes of the grasslands.

Qaysar Khoruk the Builder founded the professional standing army of the Sarmatian Empire around 678, modelling his army after the Roman Legion (only placing greater emphasis on cavalry rather than artillery). His permanent levies consisted of trained battalions of 36,000 foot soldiers and 12,000 heavy cavalry, a surprisingly larger military for an empire of only four million (since these were professional troops rather than levies of the peasantry).

Saxony protected its border with the Bulgars using a defensive stone wall while the Khazars, successors to the dissolved Western Göktürk Qaganate, were repulsed by the towering mountain that traced the easternmost boundary of Europe. The Kingdom of the Ostrogoths, the most prominent remaining member of the Confederation, erected a ~380 km brick wall where nature had given them no protection. For the most part, the kingdom of Europe settled on their borders using the extensive river systems of Eastern Europe, each kingdom relying for its defense on the difficulty of crossing a river with an army. Defenses were not perfect anywhere in this tumultuous land but by 700 CE, something of an equilibrium had been achieved.

International relations

With the dissolution of the Confederation, Rome no longer had only two governments with which to communicate in Europe - now there were nine independent European kingdoms outside her empire. Some kingdoms were of less interest to the Senate as they lay thousands of kilometers away and were not directly connected to the empire by sea. For example, Rome took some time to open significant contact with Saxony and the Frankish Kingdom, not even deigning to send a permanent emissary. Conversely, the Senate maintained an influential presence in the court of the Qaysar of Sarmatia while Roman merchants traded heavily with Sarmatian ports along the Black Sea, mostly exchanging Roman coin for metal ingots and works of Sarmatian art. As the only other Christian state, the Sarmatians were held in high esteem in Rome and made every attempt to emulate Roman culture.

Founded in 632 as a Sclavene augusty, the Port of Kiev had a growing market for Roman goods of a mostly industrial nature. In exchange, Kievan hunters traded rare furs to the Roman merchants. Furs were becoming popular in Caledonia and Magna Germania, where Romans faced harsher winters than they knew on the coast of the Mediterranean. In particular, furs of a small animal called the sabellus (sable) fetched the highest prices, where sometimes a full skin was worth 4,500 denarii. Other furs were valuable but could be afforded by common citizens. The Kievan Kingdom had ample wildlife for supplying trade with Rome.

However, the closest and largest trading partner of Rome was Venetia. Since it was a vassal kingdom of Rome, Venetia received Roman techniques for surveying land and mining ores, at the behest of eager dignitaries who encouraged Venetian mining. By the end of the Liberation War, nearly an eighth of the Venetian manpower was devoted to mining coalcopper, and lead. These metals were traded for cheap foodstuffs from Magna Germania, allowing Venetia to sustain a low proportion of farming. In return, Rome could supply its German colonies with more materials for brass, bronze, and hypocausts.

During the war, Emperator Stanis II converted to Christianity, alongside most of his royal court. At the same time, the Senate supported his military efforts with low interest loans and iron for weapons. Stanis added a Christian sanctuary to the Castel Fluven, the royal residence and castle, and commissioned Roman architects to supervise the construction of the first Slavic cathedral. The Venetians took 28 years to finish the cathedral for their newly appointed archepiskopos (archbishop). Stanis and his successors welcome the appointment as a grand privilege. They believed that the Roman Legion served the Church as well as the Caesar and that the Pope would take action to protect his high clergy.

In effect, Venetia had become as closely allied to Rome as earlier vassal kingdoms such as Armenia and Iberia. Its kings would never openly oppose the Caesar and would be highly receptive of instructions for handling neighboring kingdoms. By covering half its northern frontier with a dependent state, Rome vastly reduced the risks and cost of defending civilized Europe.

Military technology

Tyrianus spared no expense in passing the military reforms drafted by the Senate under his predecessor. Blacksmiths in the province of Noricum began to mass produce the new armor, known as the lorica tectata, for the Legion, disposing of the last pieces of lorica segmentata by 647. As body armor, this plate armor rendered arrows no more than a source of shade, with the plates ridged to deflect direct hits and their shields covering their still unprotected legs (a design kept from earlier loricae). The lorica tectata retained its predecessor's low vulnerability to slashing with blades, stabbing with most spears, and crushing with blunt weapons but these ways of fighting legionaries could still succeed with a lucky blow.

Similarly, Tyrian implemented longer training periods for recruits and funded larger training grounds at existing locations. Several legions of the so-called "new legionaries" received trial by fire in 650, in a brief border skirmish with the confederation. When this trial proved successful, Tyrian commissioned similar body armor for the kataphractoi (heavy cavalry) of the Legion, with the difference that the equestrian armor covered a rider from his helm to his boots. All that was left uncovered was an area around the eyes, no bigger than two fists, that ensured a nearly unhindered view of a battlefield. Their horse were given similarly heavy suits of plate armor. Roman barding completely covered the eyes, leaving the rider to direct his mount and forcing trainers to habituate war horses to charging blindly forward without faltering. Until techniques and supplies of effectively blind horses were readily available, this heavy barding had a grating over the eyes as a temporary compromise.

Meanwhile, engineers at the Technaeum Armarum et Armaturae (Technical School for Arms and Armor) continued to work on improvements for Roman artillery. In 686, a new design for the carroballista (cart-mounted artillery) finished replacing earlier versions of the weapon. This design had the advantage of a mechanism for retracting the bow limbs for transport, letting the cart move more rapidly and with less hassle. At its destination, the weapon deployed within second from its retracted position. When collapsed from its firing arrangement, the gears and cords could be covered against the humidity and harshness of the weather using a wooden shell which closed over the entire weapon. This additional weight was offset by lightening the frame of the cart. None of the capabilities of the earlier design were lost with this change.

By this time, the Technaeum had assisted in extensive improvements of Roman weaponry. The manuballista (long-range hand-held artillery) exceeded the range and penetration of Chinese crossbows, the next best handheld ranged weapon. However, the manuballista required a stronger than average operator to draw its bowstring. The polybolos (semi-automatic artillery) was sturdy and could launch a projectile roughly every five seconds.

Aside from technology, the military underwent one major change under Tyrianus. To avoid another situation where the capital had no military commander with authority to reform the Legion, he made the rank of Generalissimus permanent under appointment by an emperor. The Generalissimus and the Caesar could not both be away from Italy and Greece for more than six months. If they happened to be away for that long, then the Senate temporarily acquired the authority to recall the Generalissimus.

Before this reform, the empire never had a peacetime Generalissimus, since the position largely existed to unify command in a war. For this reason, the responsibilities of the supreme commander of the Legion were expanded. From 643, he shared the responsibility for maintaining effective vigiles (urban watchmen) in Rome with the imperial aedile and bore the responsibility of personally inspecting fortifications and soldiers on the limites (frontiers). These tasks renewed central oversight over border defenses, enforcing a higher level of discipline in the non-professional soldiers defending the empire.

Releasing Somalia

After the debauchery of Caesar Cleganus in Somalia, Tyrianus was compelled to amend the reputation of Rome in that region. For this purpose, he had the Senate reorganize the Somali city-states into an independent federation of cities each ruled by a council of its own merchant princes. These nobles were the wealthiest men in their respective cities, after most of the royal families of the old Boqors (Kings) were exterminated, making them most suited to running the freed port towns. Transferal of power from Rome to these merchants took several decades, during which time the dignitatum somalianum (ambassador to the Somali) provided ample funds for these civil servants to improve their reputations in their respective cities.

Some Somali ports were assisted in the construction of city walls to defend them against nearby tribes and the outlaws that had formed in retaliation to mistreatment by the last Roman Caesar. These war bands made travel on foot even more dangerous than before the conquest of Somalia. Maritime trade remained the most reliable source of income in the new federation. Rome would leave the Somali traders dependent on its empire for much of its food.

When the Arabs invaded Nubia in 646, there was a brief food shortage that sparked riots in some of the cities. Some merchant princes of the Somali were killed while others took the opportunity to accumulate more power for themselves. The fighting meant chaos engulfed some cities. As a foederatus (vassal) of Rome, the federation requested help from the empire but legions could only arrive after the Arabs were expelled from Nubia, which made their arrival in Somalia useless to the local governments.

This federation would have a tumultuous history, since the city-states were an adequate beachhead for Islam. Over time, some merchant princes would convert to Christianity and others to Islam, sparking local religious wars that seemed a microcosm for the greater conflict between the Roman and the Islamic worlds.


Some craftsmen throughout the empire cut and polished crystals (emeraldsquartz, etc.) to produce simple lenses, usually for magnification of written text. Some emperors, such as Nero and Maximius, were known to have used corrective lenses to fix their nearsightedness. Less expensive lenses could also be made by filling a glass sphere with water. Water lenses were the most common type of burning glass, a lens used as a heating source for starting fires or cauterizing wounds (every hospital had such a lens somewhere on its premises). Aside from in medicine, lenses were scarcely used before the 7th century.

Around 638, a glassmaker in Treverorum (Trier) created a plano-convex glass lens for magnification by cutting a glass sphere in half then polishing each piece. His competitors adopted the same practice upon noticing the popularity of his lens with other merchants, who were rich enough to own books but not to afford crystal lenses for magnifying text. Within three decades, one of these glassmakers had noticed thinner lenses were better, offering a clearer and more magnified image. Egyptian glassmakers, who were better supplied than Belgican glassmakers, adopted glass lensmaking around 660. These magnifying lenses were sold as fixtures on metal stands to be kept on people's desks for reading - earning the name lapes lectiones (reading stones).

Many craftsmen bought these cheaper lenses to do finer work with the assistance of their magnification. Around 680, some artisans requested something similar to reading stones on desk stands, except attached to the head by a circlet. This strange looking device allowed its single lens to be placed at a variable distance from the eye and let craftsmen keep their hands free for doing whatever work required magnification. Artillery technicians and researchers at the Technaeum of Carthage would benefit especially from these tools, permitting more and more precise machinery (such as the lighter, retractable carroballista).

Some geometricians at the Musaeum of Alexandria took to studying these new lenses, as they were more convenient to handle than water lenses and cheaper as well as carved in more varieties than crystal lenses. Pelocles of Alexandria copied the methods of Ptolemy in tabulating the relationships between the angles of incidence and angles of refraction of light going from air to water, water to glass, and glass to air. His tabulated data showed that Ptolemy was mistaken in describing the two angles as equal. In his treatise Perspectiva, Pelocles gave a mathematical relationship between these two angles, thereby inventing the modern scientific law for refraction of light passing from one medium to another by assigning a ratio to each pair of media that determined the angle of refraction from a given angle of incidence. This text was also the first treatise to overturn the understanding of Empedocles (490-430 BCE) on vision, a traditional view that light emanated from the eye but interacted with emanations of elemental fire in such a way that a source of fire (e.g. a torch, lightning, or the Sun) was needed for anything to be visible by the light coming from the eye.

Pelocles postulated that fire emitted a residue in straight lines going in all directions from its source. Every object could reflect these rays, also doing so in all directions, but some materials reflected more than others (lighter versus darker materials). Vision was then a process of these reflected rays entering the eyes from an object. His criticism of the traditional theory contains an early statement of the principle of parsimony, opposing the unnecessary postulation of steps or entities in an explanation.

Another phenomenon that supported the postulates of Pelocles was the camera obscura, the projection of a reversed image onto a flat surface using only a small hole and a source of light. The straight path of reflected light easily explained the reversal of the image in a camera obscura. His brief explanation of the instrument gave other philosophers a succinct reference material for getting their own camerae and performing their own experiments with the device.

Glassmaking surged in popularity as glass lenses were manufactured in larger quantities. For the last two centuries, glass windows had become more popular for the rural villas and urban homes of the rich, as this was around when transparent and unblemished glass became the standard for making glass windows throughout the empire. Window panes were popular since they kept out insects in the countryside and the urban stink in parts of some cities. While the market for windows and other glassware ensured a decent industry in certain cities during the 7th century, especially around Egypt and Belgica, adding the demand for lenses by craftsmen and eventually military technicians nearly doubled the income of the market.

At the start of the 8th century, some glassmakers invented lathes, powered by foot pedals, for polishing and grinding lenses. Wealthier glassmakers collected water in the upper stories of their workshops for powering high-speed lathes, where the great force of falling water was converted into a high speed by gears (a simple lever cut the flow of water to stop the lathe). Not only did machine grinding create smoother lenses, it also drastically reduced the time spent on each lens.


Perhaps the mostly widely used mechanism in the Roman Empire was the lock. Roman locksmiths created two types of locks: (1) a warded lock that had physical barriers (or wards) to protect a latch that could only be lifted by turning a key with the gaps corresponding to the shape of the wards and (2) a pin tumbler lock, also known as the Egyptian lock, that held the bolt with pins forced by gravity down into holes drilled into the bolt. The former was easily picked unless exceptionally complex wards were used (this is the reason that keys to some cathedrals were dotted in small holes). The durability required for a precise and intricate warded lock meant that the best and most expensive were metal locks.
Pin-tumbler Lock

Egyptian lock with a large key
Pegs on the brush lift the pins

Glass lenses encouraged locksmiths to work with unprecedented accuracy, allowing for finer locking mechanisms and innovations in the operation of locks. Around 688, a locksmith in the province of Egypt won a contract with a local cathedral with a lock that used springs instead of gravity to force the tumblers into the bolt that prevented the door from opening. Since the pins were held inside by springs, they were inserted from the bottom rather than from above, a position that lockpickers would consider impossible at the time. As with earlier pin tumbler locks, it was unlocked by inserting a key with pegs on a flat head. Each peg corresponded to one pin in the lock so the pins could only be removed from the bolt by pushing them all out at once using a specific arrangement of pegs on a key.

Over time, springs became a staple component of Egyptian locks, for reasons other than to confuse lockpickers. Without spring-loaded tumblers, an Egyptian lock could only be used on doors, where the tumblers were always oriented along the same direction as gravity. With springs, padlocks could be designed using Egyptian locking mechanisms, without worrying about the orientation of the padlock. Another improvement over gravity-loaded tumblers was that each pin could be inserted into the bolt at a different depth, requiring not only the correct arrangement of pegs but also pegs of the correct minimum length. A lock taking advantage of varied depths was eventually invented in 748 by a great military engineer.

By the turn of the century, the coil spring required for Egyptian locks was forged in every Roman city, since wealthy citizens all wanted spring-loaded locks, whose designs were too complicated for most unspecialized blacksmiths. Coiling these bronze springs was done by wrapping a strand of heated metal around a bar, setting the metal in the shape of a helix. Bronze springs were the best that was available to citizens but the military favored Norican steel (norica) for their lock springs. Steel was more malleable than bronze forged at the time and avoided permanent deformation over a longer period. Eventually, the widespread use of a new type of steel would revolutionize locksmithing and would make springs feasible for other machinery.

Paper industry

After the author of the Romana Historia introduced papermaking to the Musaeum of Alexandria in the late 6th century, the material slowly became more commonplace with the creation of new pulp mills for supplying craftsmen who made paper by hand. By 700, the cities of ParisiumLondiniumAntioch, and Rome each had several pulp mills that collected rags from other cityfolk. Since raw materials for paper were free and little labor was needed for pulping, the manufactured paper was cheaper than the alternatives. Not even papyrus could compete with the price of paper.

However, the new writing material was known to be of a low quality and philosophers, poets, and politicians did not believe that it could last as long as parchmentvellum, or even papyrus. For this reason, many writers and librarians were reluctant to have works of a high value copied onto paper. Nevertheless, paper became the primary medium for epistulae (letters) and its low cost and high supply in cities massively expanded the availability of the cursus vehicularis (national postal service) to the common people. Since the service cost anywhere from one to eight denarii per letter, even a poor laborer could now afford to send a letter. More importantly, the steadily increasing volume of letters throughout the 7th century instigated a faster spread of more than just news. For once, new technologies could be spread by guilds and merchants from one end of the empire to another within less than a decade, especially through the correspondence of intercity trade guilds.

Several notable ideas were launched into nationwide prominence during the 7th century as a result of the cheaper cost of writing and communication. First and foremost, the decimal notation from India finally spread from the eastern provinces into Italy, Gaul, Hispania, and Germany. Around 630 CE, accountants in Greece and Anatolia were just starting to adopt decimal numbers in place of the ubiquitous Roman numerals but by 650, they had reached Italy and spread everywhere within the empire. Around this time, the use of decimal notation spread to philosophers and geometers, who liked the clarity of the positional notation and of the new symbols. Due to its uses in the empire, decimal notation began around 670 to be known as mercantile numbers, with the distinction that the older system of numeration got called common numbers or common numerals.

Overall, the declining cost of paper was felt throughout the Roman economy, coinciding with its increasing ubiquity. Jobs such as scribeheraldaccountant, and copyist became more common and their services less expensive. Meanwhile, any profession that required planning or designing was able to cut costs and become more productive. There were more substantial developments to come in the dominance of paper and written communication but the 7th century was a key turning point in this process.

Cimbrian piracy

Major shipping lanes between the German provinces and the Mediterranean passed through the Herulian Straits, transporting furs, ingots, furniture, and grain to a wider market. Despite the distance by sea, shipping goods through these straits was faster and cheaper than carrying them overland from Germany to Italy. The only problem was that piracy in the straits was reaching an unprecedented level during the reign of Tyrianus, to the degree that by 670 merchants feared to travel there without escort.

In response, Tyrian sent his Generalissimus to lead some of the German legions on a mission to clear coastal villages from the shores of Cimbria (Denmark). Inland villages were left alone but small fishing villages and trading outposts on the water were systematically reduced to cinders. Orders were given to handle the locals in a civilized manner - giving them a day to evacuate from their coastal villages and warning them never to return. Ever since losing Persia, senators adopted the attitude that Romans needed to work harder toward showing how much more civilized they were than other societies. Preceding this shift, the Senate had become concerned that the barbarian world (mundus barbarus) was seeming less barbaric in recent decades and was poised to drown Roman culture or even grow sufficiently unified to destroy the empire. Te new attitude forced the Legion to give "dignified" treatment to barbarians whenever their lands were invaded, both as a show of Roman superiority and an expression of civility to the rest of the world. Since few armies could afford the "generosity" of allowing their targets to go free, these warnings were a prominent display of Roman military confidence - a comfort to Roman citizens as much as anything else.

By 673, the coastline of the peninsula was cleared of villages. This was only the beginning. Villages on the island shores of the straits were destroyed by Roman marines. Cleansing the coastlines of all the Insulae Heruliae and of the western coast of the nearby landmass took a further eleven years. Ships brought cartographers to map the coasts as they were investigated, providing more accurate maps of the Herulian Straits. These detailed maps helped select a location for a massive fortistrum navalum (naval fortress) that would maintain control over the straits as foreigners inevitably returned to lives at sea.

A small islet in a natural harbor of the largest island in the Herulian Straits was chosen as the most defensible location that cartographers had noted, conveniently situated adjacent to the region's primary shipping route. Separated from the mainland of the island by a thin band of water, this islet was encircled within a decade by high sloped walls. On the shore facing the main island, a tower was raised 120 meters to offer a vantage point over the adjacent flatlands. Half of the other end of the islet was covered by drydocks for storing warships. A barracks inside the fortress had a capacity of a thousand men, as dozens of small cursores based there needed space for their marines, rowers, and other crewmen. The navarchus princeps of this squadron of ships served as the castellan of the fortress and the commanding officer of soldiers stationed in the straits.

Nowhere else in Cimbrian or the Herulian Straits was settled by Romans. For this reason, Cimbria was not viewed as a province of the empire. No governor was assigned to the island and colonization beyond the Cimbrian Wall at the neck of the peninsula remained as discouraged as anywhere else beyond the national limites. The purpose of this fortress was only to facilitate patrols of the Herulian Straits and reduce the cost of sending soldiers to burn villages as they were resettled by the evicted natives (over a century, the native Dani and Juti learned better than to return to the sea and adopted an agrarian lifestyle).

Cimbrian piracy fell drastically after these expeditions. The few pirates that remained in the Baltic Sea and the Herulian Straits came from outposts farther north, along the shoreline of the massive landmass that cartographers identified as Scandinavia. At this time, the Romans were confident that this peninsula north of Magna Germania extended farther north than any citizen had ever ventured in the history of the Roman Empire. There were talks of striking out into these lands to rout more pirates but most senators were uncomfortable sending citizens that far north - deploying them into a land completely unsuitable to Romans.


Any society that had progressed beyond basic metallurgy relied on a variety of manufacturing processes requiring specialized knowledge of natural materials and the synthesis of new materials by mixture and heating. Roman markets required the second most sophisticated understanding of materials, manufacturing vast quantities of such goods as: caementum (concrete), from mixtures of gypsumcalcium oxide, and often volcanic dustvitrum (glass), from mixtures of calcium oxidesilica, potash or natron, and a variety of metal oxides for color; papyrum (paper), from cloth fibers; sapo (soap), from tallow and potash; tinctura (dye), from a vast variety of substances including alumwoadsaffron, and Tyrian purple; and metallum (metal), from various ores, where gold is the simplest and norica the most specializedGuilds and artisans for these markets constantly sought better materials and new methods for their work, to which gradual improvements in the art of glassmaking, the invention of cast iron, and discoveries in geology stand as a testament. Discoveries by these artisans were the true driving force for the technological development of the empire.

A rigorous basis for an early science of mixtures arose from geology in the tradition of Nicomechus (436-497 CE). A residue was identified by Nicomechus as seudargum (zinc), a distinct albeit useless byproduct of smelting specific ores. By ~670, a process for specifically smelting the zinc from ores had been discovered as an alternative to careful collection of residual zinc. Still, zinc remained an expensive metal, worth its weight in gold despite its plain appearance. Both metallic zinc and zinc oxide could be produced from zinc ores, the latter finding use as a salve in the medical treatment of certain skin diseases.

Frequent distillation of known fluids was part of a growing body of work on fluids and mixtures. Scholars had various goals for studying mixtures: some wanted to separate fluids into their elements (believed to be fire, airwater, and earth) while other were keen on transmuting metals into gold. Since nothing could dissolve gold, it was viewed as the most noble of metals and many thought gold would be the end result of some series of dissolving and distilling specific mixtures. The tools of these scholars came from the ancient equipment of the Hermetic philosophers, the first group of natural philosophers to study mixtures using the tribikoskerotakis, and water bath. Their studies were part of mystical rituals that discerned the living forces in matter.

More natural philosophers in the 7th century had forsaken Hermeticism than still followed its traditions but some of them still pursued similar goals to the Hermetic alchemists. In any case, everyone studying fluids and metals used tools that descended from Hermetic equipment, including an effectively unchanged water bath for slow heating. Specialized glass vessels were used for distillationfermentation, and calcination among other procedures; in general, all of their procedures focused on either the purification of a material or the synthesis of new materials (e.g. smelting can purify copper from its ore or synthesize bronze).

Perhaps the most important tool that philosophers had invented in the last two centuries was a spherical glass vessel with a long neck dipping downward (a retort) since it made distillation a trivial task when cold water was at hand to condense the "spirits" of the evaporated fluid back into its liquid form. Other tools were sievesfiltersaludels (subliming pots), cruciblesminiature hydraulicsmortar and pestle, and simple glass vessels for storing or mixing liquids. Forges and blast furnaces were as useful as any philosopher's tools so the Musaeum had close relations with local blacksmiths and Alexandrian guilds.

Procedures at the Musaeum were sophisticated for their time. Even the most similar substances were successfully distinguished by slight differences in their observable qualities or even in quantities such as density. Philosophers had primitive knowledge of the melting point and boiling point of a substance, ordering pure metals by how easily they could be melted and powders by their effect on the ease with which water boiled. A consistent and clear vocabulary of materials grew out of the works of Aristotle, Pliny, and Nicomechus, with each generation of philosophers contributing their own confirmations of their observations.

Materials were classified into three distinct groups: μέταλλα (metals), πνεύμα (wisps), and πέτρες (stones). Wispy materials were those that disappeared after sufficient heating while a stony material was any solid that could got ground into a powder instead of deforming in shape when subject to mechanical stress.

However, the Roman understanding of matter was permeated by interpretation through the theoretical framework of the classical elements and the qualities ascribed by the New Platonists of the Athenian school to these elements (hotdrycoldwet). There were no philosophers who doubted that known materials were only specific mixtures of these four elements. Despite limitation by preconceived notions about matters, the philosophers of the Musaeum were fine-tuning their arts of purification and synthesis, leaving behind new discoveries for posterity and teaching this information to students who came to their illustrious school.

Father of Chemistry

Among these students, Balerios of Ephesus made a name for himself in 679 by discovering a new fluid from the calcination of an aqueous solution of niteralum, and blue vitriol (solution of cupric sulphate). Sharing its visual qualities with water, the fluid burned to the touch and left ugly scars, as Balerios was unfortunate enough to discover. He noticed that his pneuma nitra (spirit of niter) stained wood and leather in beautiful patterns and sold his most recent recipe to local tanners and carpenters, who each paid handsomely for knowledge of how to create this caustic substance. Within a year, Balerios became a resident philosopher at the Musaeum and discovered that pneuma nitra could dissolve silver, an incredible ability that made his fluid the most popular substance at the time.

Working with green vitriol (solution of ferrous sulphate), he discovered a similarly caustic fluid in 691, reminded by his scarred hand to be careful with his fluids. This pneuma vitrica (glass-like spirit) was presented to his colleagues although no use for the fluid could be found after several years.

These two discoveries were features of a continued flourishing of Roman knowldge about the natural world. Traditional beliefs about matter were appearing more fragile as they offered no help in the discovery of new substances, despite the claims of the Aristotelians, New Platonists, and pseudo-Hermetics. Balerios had a hand in overturning this ancient understanding. In his codex On Matter, Balerios expanded the classical elements to his seven philosophical elementsfireair, waterearthsulphursalt, and mercury. His theory was that metallic material was something containing mercury, wispy materials were those substances that combined sulphur and fire in some way with air, and stony materials contained either earth or salt. Balerios ascribed some combination of elements, speculating on their proportions, for every known material. For his discoveries and theories, Balerios has been hailed by historians and scientists as the Father of Chemistry.

[For future reference, the following is an incomplete list of the substances recognized by philosophers and artisans at the time, noted in both their ancient and modern names:

Pneumaaqua (pure water), glassy spirit (sulphuric acid), spirit of niter (nitric acid), picula (petroleum), asphaltum (bitumen), kerosene, naphtahygron pyr (Greek fire), acetum (dilute acetic acid), and sulphur (various compounds).

Metallacuprum (copper), ferrum (iron), plumbum (lead), stannum (tin), aurum (gold), argentum (silver), aeris (copper alloy), pseudargis (zinc), and quicksilver (mercury).

Petrasal (sodium chloride), sabulum (silica), nitron (potassimum nitrate), natron (mostly sodium carbonate decahydrate), quicklime (calcium oxide), slake lime (calcium hydroxide), creta (calcium carbonate), alum (potassium aluminium sulphate), sal cineres (potassium carbonate), sal ammoniacus (ammonium chloride), green vitriol (ferrous sulphate), blue vitriol (cupric sulphate), olibanum (frankincense), gypsum (calcium sulphate), albacum (borax), and over thirty distinct ores.]

After Balerios, Roman philosophers viewed sulphurmercury, sand, and salt as containing the essences of their respective pure elements (with common salt and sand being considered pure salt and pure earth respectively). On this same view, mercury was regarded as the mother of all metals and sulphur as pure combustibility. Together, the texts On Matter and the Classification of Stones gave Romans a rigorous factual knowledge of minerals and fluids, alongside more nebulous theories, that would serve as the basis for the approaching development of a proper science of chemistry.

Germanic religion

When the Germanic kingdoms formed, kings served as regional religious authorities, leading sacrifices as high priests for their respective peoples. Only the Avars and the Sarmatians had different practices. Avar religion was a worship of gods living on the tops of mountains, a strong contrast with their lifestyles on wide open plains. A shamanic class of Avar society seems to have been where religious authority was concentrated, at least as early as the 7th century. Meanwhile, the Alans had no type of religious authority whatsoever, as worship took place at the level of the family instead of in local temples or sacred grounds.

Over time, Germanic religion unified among the kingdoms as contact between the nobility and kings allowed some sharing of beliefs between regional authorities. One common feature of Germanic religions was that instead of building temples, the priests consecrated sacred groves or woods to their gods. However, there was some diversification when the Confederation dissolved.

King Fuco of Lombardy distinguished his people's religion from other Germanic religions by creating a sacred grove in his Great Hall, walling off a large plot of land adjacent to his hall for this purpose. In this way, the king would always have a sacred site in his place of residence. During Fuco's reign, lesser lords made their own gudenwald, often on the spot of existing sacred woods. Local priests took to attaching their residences to these enclosed groves, in the manner of their king. A gudenwald came to serve the same role as temples in other Western religions, such as Roman Christianity or traditional Mediterranean religions.

Within the next century, the Three Kingdoms and the Kingdom of Francia would found similar places of worship for their kings, through close contact of the King of Francia and the King of the Angles and the Andals with the King of Lombardy. This adoption of similar modes of worship was the start of a stronger diversification of Germanic religion into two distinct faiths: one shared by the Franks, Lombards, and Angles, then the other shared by the Confederate Kingdoms and the Saxons. There were strong traditions in these kingdoms of rejecting Roman Christianity, as a threat to their liberty. In particular, the divine right of kings was threatened by the popularity of other religions, leading to the integration of Germanic religion into the military and society of each Germanic kingdom to preserve the traditional faith.

Statistics for the Roman Empire of 687 AD

Population: 102 million (41.9% of humans), including ~3.5 million slaves

Area: 8,958,000 km²

GDP: 19.992 billion denarii (~$840 billion US)

Treasury: 430 million denarii (~18.1 billion US)

Government revenue: 1.301 billion denarii (~$55 billion US)

Military spending: 479 million denarii (39.1% of revenue or 2.69% of GDP)

Military size: 166,400 legionaries (26 legions), ~230,000 auxiliaries, 10,000 praetorian guards, and ~230,000 crewmen

Legislature: 1,000 senators

Christianity: 99% of citizens

Maya Conglomerate

Over the early years of this period, Mayan society continued to advance at a moderate pace. All the lands of the Conglomerate, whose borders had been the same for around a century, were fully integrated by around 650 CE. Only the Tribal States lacked these advancements as they were merely considered territories occupied by the Mayans. In a surprisingly devious act, the Mayans had been steadily exterminating the native populations in these states, repopulating them with ethnic Mayans. Either through their demands of 10 sacrifices per village per year, or secret campaigns of murder, perpetrated by Mayan spies and assassins, all native populations in the Conglomerate were disappearing. In 654, the Mayan Council declared three of the ten Tribal States as Mayan States, each containing around 50,000-80,000 Mayans. These states merged with their industrial heartland in the north, the rest of which consisted of Mexica States, people who had the same rights, but not as much access to Mayan technology as their overseers. By 657, the ethnic distribution was approximately: 75 % Mayan; 23% Mexica and 2% Native American.

It was that year however, that the next of the great Mayan kings came into power, he was known as King Pakal II (the Great). As his first acts, he altered the overall tax system, particularly raising levels of indirect taxes on luxury goods and durable goods. Then, he put even larger amounts of funding into the research of metallurgy and the techniques of extracting metal from their ore. This payed off, when in 666, Mayan scientists discovered not only how to cast metal using pre-existing molds, but they made great strides in the use of bellows during the process of smelting metals. What this did, was bring their metallurgical technology to a level approximately equal to the Roman Empire during the 2nd-3rd centuries. The Mayan Conglomerate was now, without a shadow of a doubt, the single most advanced empire in history up to that point. A position they would hold for many years to come.

Next, in 667, Pakal began another age of Mayan Expansionism, sending his armies to conquer the lands to their south. In this direction, as contact was impossible for these natives to those in the north, the Mayans were brutal in their expansion, capturing and enslaving every living person they encountered, storing them for later use as sacrifices. Though there was a brief respite in these conquests between 684 and 692, once that was over, they had lost non of their fervor and continued onwards to devastating effect. By 700 CE, the Mayan border was only 100 km from the connecting point to a new continent, South America, or as the Romans would know it, South Columbia.

The soldiers of the Mayans from this period onwards made full use of their new metal weaponry. In 667, the first iron swords were made and within three years they were the standard among every Mayan soldier. Resembling OTL's Medieval European swords, but far more ornamental looking like those of the East, these swords were easily as effective as anything the Romans, Chinese or Indians were using during the same time period. Only a year later, someone designed the first bronze shield, a design which was rapidly improved to the point that the design resembled Spartan shields in form some time around 670 CE. Both the iron sword and bronze shield were the standard for Mayan soldiers from 674 onwards.

Iron technology was then applied to the manufacturing of arrowheads in 673. These arrows had a distinctly hooked design that was already common to their arrowheads that were made from stone. For the time being, these were the only major uses of iron casting techniques by the Conglomerate, and since metallurgy was allowed only by permit from the government, most or nearly all metals extracted were put to this kind of purpose.

Corvian Dynasty:
1348 (595)-1395 (642)
Reign of Tyrianus:
1395 (642)-1440 (687)
Early Tyrian Dynasty:
1440 (687)-1514 (761)

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