Alternate History

835-889 CE (Superpowers)

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Middle Tyrian Dynasty:
1514 (761)-1588 (835)
Reign of Cassius:
1588 (835)-1642 (889)
Reign of Calvinus:
1642 (889)-1669 (916)

Rome had weathered the viking storm, learning a lesson in geopolitics - know your immediate geopolitical region. One of the driving forces in the Senate, after Caesar Illyrio ended the Scandinavian Wars, was to fully map the world near the frontiers of the empire. Already, these expeditions were discovering kingdoms in Africa and forays were slowly being made into the Far East. Diplomacy with Indian states was revived after centuries of negligence and Rome began to embrace a role as a moderating influence on the international arena, especially with regard to Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, the political conflict between provincial and imperial interests was coming to a head - aggravated by Rome's overextension of its financial power as it got more deeply involved in other countries at the same time as it maintained heavy subsidization of its citizens in the provinces.

Caesar Cassius (835-889)

Only a young senator when he was adopted, Cassius Pius was raised as the son of the Roman Empire's most politically influential family, whose patriarch served as a Censor upholding the interests of citizens living outside Italy (i.e. of provincials). By a narrow margin, Cassius was chosen by the Senate during an ambiguous succession. His election was a major victory for the foederalis faction of senators against the growing patricianis faction. Since this faction remained dominant, the Senate and Caesar were forced to continue selling public land (ager publicus) to sustain the spending required to provide services to the provinces.

Steel market

By the mid-9th century, some blacksmiths had spent an entire career working with steel. These uncommon craftsmen would have apprenticed under master ironsmiths who only learned about norica pistoriana (crucible steel) partway through their lifetimes. Guilds whose influence reached across the Roman Empire spread the techniques developed in 737 by Pistorius Mica for forging a durable and flexible steel in clay crucibles. By the reign of Cassius, this tradition had been practiced enough that steelsmiths could make steel tools of the same form as tools made from ferrum (iron) or cuprum (copper). Where early steelsmiths were limited to simple shapes, this new generation could create steel armor and steel trinkets.

The Senate took advantage of these developments in metalworking skills by outfitting all of its legionaries with steel plate armor. Before 840, most legionary armor was made from noric steel, a mineralogically distinct and durable type of iron, but by 870, the majority of legionaries had armor crafted from pistorian steel with ridged patterns for deflecting blades and arrows. The significance of this transition for the abilities of the Legion is hard to overstate, given the extra durability of the new steel. Suffice it to say that a legionary of the late-9th century could take dozens of direct blows without harm from the weapons of contemporary kingdoms.

Steel armor completed the transition of Roman military equipment into an age of steel. Some of the first items made from the new steel were gladius swords and arrowheads for the Legion, leaving body armor one of the last things to be upgraded. In general, Rome now possessed drastically superior military technology than its neighbors, with weapons and armor rivalled only by the two superpowers of far away continents. An arrowhead used by a sagittarius (legion archer) was a case-hardened broadhead piece of steel with four symmetrical blades, an time-consuming but rewarding weapon to forge. Swords for legionaries were becoming more and more elaborate as steelworking improved but the overall design of the gladius remained largely unchanged. Furthermore, the scutum (rectangular shield) had been redesigned without the central boss, for replacement by a layer of steel over the wood.

kataphractos of the equestrian order was outfitted with the heaviest steel plate armor by the mid-9th century, covering him from his head to his feet. Although Cassius reduced their numbers to 300 for each legion, their effectiveness in the new steel armor was definitively superior to their more numerous noric steel armored predecessors. This reduction in numbers was part of a gradual but continuous demilitarization implemented by Cassius, resulting in the disbanding of four legions by 873. In general, the year 873 was a milestone set by the emperor to reduce the size of the Legion in the wake of the Scandinavian Wars and in the face of the crushing deficits that could only be matched by selling valuable public land.

In any case, the difference between pistorian steel and other varieties of steel is difficult to overstate. This crucible steel is forged with a remarkable purity between 1-2% carbon content. Normally, highly brittle structures form in the steel at this level of purity but Pistorius Mica used repeated forging cycles to group this brittle material into thin lines. In many ways, the complicated forging of this steel may be Mica's greatest and most complex invention. Blades forged from this process could hold a sharper edge or point than with other metals and armor forged using this steel was nearly impossible in practice to penetrate and did not permanently deform as easily as other plate armor (although it had a tendency to deform slightly with heavy blows).

Due to the exotic forge and skill requirements of pistorian steel, only a small percentage of Roman ironsmiths were able to forge ingots or objects of such high quality metal. However, the Legion was guaranteed a steady supply of arms and armor from local smiths with the right capabilities. Although pistorian steel was expensive, the costs saved from not transporting equipment from Noricum, the only source of noric steel, to the frontiers made the transition to pistorian steel only marginally more expensive.

One of the most important applications of steel by the Legion was in its artillery. The elasticity of pistorian steel combined with its durability made it ideal for the arcs of polytrahoi (semi-automatic artillery), manuballistae (handheld long-range crossbow), and plumballistae (heavy compact artillery). In general, steel crossbows were a major advancement in weapons technology that gave the Legion an advantage against the Germanic kingdoms and the Arabian caliphates. However, the Romans were aware that the Fatimid Caliphate armed its heavy infantry with Indian steel which had a reputation of its own. In reality, Indian steel was very similar to pistorian steel, although the processes of their creation and their compositions differed. The former was slightly more durable than the latter but could only be produced by smelting ores from a particular region whereas pistorian steel could be made by any ironsmith with the proper forge and the necessary skills.

African Warfare

Expeditions into Africa accelerated after the Senate opened trade relations with the Kingdom of Ghana (Regna Gana). Although the Lyceum funded many trips into the Desertum Africanum, the main patron of exploration was the Roman Senate. In 854, an exploration party discovered another African city by following the word of Ghanaian caravaners who traded with the west. This city sat at the heart of an empire more powerful than Ghana. From Ghanaian merchants, Romans learned more about this land and took to calling the new city Gaum and knew its empire as the Regnum Gauum (Kingdom of Gao).

Some Gao merchants spoke a few words of bastardized Latin but communication with the locals was generally difficult. Seeing an opportunity, the Senate slowly urged Ghana toward war with Gao. As incentive, the Senate shipped tens of thousands of steel manuballistae to Ghana, in exchange for about 5 tonnes in gold and twice that value in other commodities (an order of magnitude more than the weapons were worth). Arming commoners with these easily used crossbows, the Ghanaians went to war against Gao in 871, accompanied only by 500 praetorians for holding their flank and a praefectus praetorianus as an observer.

Rome learned a great deal about Ghanaian and Gao military tactics before the war ended with the capture of Gao in 876 and its ally of Ghana added several thousand kilometers of territory, alongside an impressive bounty in gold and slaves. Although Rome had empowered Ghana, the war only served to solidify diplomatic relations between the two powers.

Before the shipment of weapons, West African kingdoms did not use crossbows in warfare. This conflict changed that situation, as Ghanaian artisans emulated the design of the manuballista to create their own less elaborate wooden crossbows. Once the supply of manuballistae had decayed, the Ghanaians mostly armed scouts with crossbows, rather than using it as a frontline weapon. The crossbow also became a popular hunting tool over the next few centuries of dissemination, particularly with small poison-tipped arrows instead of the heavy metal arrowheads in Roman or Chinese crossbow bolts.

Roman influence

On the whole, Roman influences in West Africa continued to rise throughout the 9th century. Trans-Saharan trade dominated the trade routes along the coast of Africa while the Kingdom of Ghana slowly became an imperial puppet of Rome, receiving senatorial recognition as a foederatus (vassal state) in 884 as part of a major diplomatic event between the two societies. At the same time, the regional power of Ghana grew until it annexed the city of Gao in 889, effectively dissolving the Gao Empire in the process.

The war between Gao and Ghana is remembered by historians as the formal start of the Trans-Saharan slave trade. Becoming the dominant regional power after defeating Gao, Ghana steadily became more militarized for the purpose of acquiring more slaves from neighboring settlements to sell to Rome. Merchants from the Roman Empire paid hefty prices for slaves, as slave numbers fluctuated wildly throughout the 7th to 9th centuries, and the Kaya Maghan of Ghana did not fail to notice the lucrative nature of this business with Romans. Ghana and its successor states ensured a modest but steady supply of slaves for a few centuries.

Using its position in Ghana, the Senate weakened the already scarce East-West trade in Africa, isolating Ghana from the Islamic influences that were dominating Somalia. This situation reached a head when the city-state of Maqadishah joined the caliphate of Arabia in 849, as a means of integrating itself into the Ummah (Nation of Islam) represented by the Umayyad Caliphate. The land of Maqadishah was ruled as the Sultanah Maq'ad-i-Shah, through a local leader acting as an effective king. Using this foothold, the presence of the caliphate expanded with the conquests of its third Sultan during the late-9th century. Although Rome noticed the aggressive policies of the Sultanate of Maqadishah, it did not involve its legions in these regional affairs. The focus of Rome was on West Africa and Eastern Europe, alongside its escalating internal problems.

Great Earthquake

Calamity struck the empire when the capital experienced an earthquake in 847 CE. Although nowhere near the magnitude of the recent quake in Antioch, Rome was ill-prepared for this devastating event, which far exceeded the rumblings that struck 46 years earlier. A majority of residents of the capital lived in insulae (apartment blocks) and repairs on many buildings after earlier quakes were of a poor quality. Sections of the Domus Augustana and Domus Flaviae collapsed, killing the emperor's chief of staff (magister officium) and dozens of servants, while other buildings on the Collis Palatinus and around the city center suffered a similar fate (especially the Basilica Aemilia on the Roman Forum, Basilica Ulpia in Trajan's Forum, and Flavian Amphitheater southeast of the Roman Forum). Most damage to Rome resulted from the fires that followed. Nearly 50,000 citizens died from the quake and fires while another 280,000 were left with no home, the majority of which were poor citizens living in apartments near the Forum. With the palace in ruins, the capitol a mess, and the central residential area in shambles, Rome was in a sorry state. In the same year, Antioch suffered an earthquake of its own but buildings were designed in preparation of such an event, mitigating the damage in Syria. Nevertheless, the other earthquake was an unwelcome diversion for funds during an already tumultuous time for the empire. As a staunch foederalis, Cassius refused to divert funds from health care and other benefits in the provinces to afford reconstruction in the capital. Since there were also not enough buyers for public land to sell more land each year, the only option was to start to incur public debt to the Banca Romae (Bank of Rome).

Under this policy, Cassius only allowed the Senate to borrow enough to build houses. For the rest of his reign, Cassius became the "Caesar outside Rome", running his administration from the imperial residences on Capri. With his distance from the capital, Cassius had his adopted son, Lucius Caelus Calvinus, receive clients outside the Curia Petra (Senate House). For this reason, Calvinus became popular with the public of the capital and was associated by the public with the rebuilding done by Cassius.

Despite Cassius's efforts, large sections of Rome were left in ruins for the rest of his reign. The Flavian Amphitheater was partially repaired to reopen its halls to the public for market stalls and walking space, letting the arena itself became a park of sorts by bringing soil and planting grass. In this way, the great landmark of the capital could stay in use despite the damage and without major expediture from the state, which would be required for a full restoration. Meanwhile, the markets in Trajan's Forum were only partially restored, largely by the efforts of merchants who owned stalls that had been damaged. The various public buildings (basilicae) that had collapsed were only sectioned off from the street by wooden barriers, without repairing any of the damage. However, the most egregious problem was that residential blocks were also left in ruins, since building new houses on the outskirts of Rome was cheaper than clearing rubble before building a new structure.

Perhaps the one expensive program of reconstruction that Cassius allowed was the rebuilding of aqueducts. Many of the capital's aqueducts were damaged or severed in the earthquake. Thousands of businesses relied on their water for hydropower and even more citizens needed the water for bathing and drinking. There was no choice for the Senate but to rebuild aqueducts feeding into the same parts of Rome as before. However, the way this was done is still deserving of praise.

Instead of constructing more freestanding aqueducts, the Senate commissioned architects to have the new distribution system for water integrated into buildings. This practice had been done throughout the empire but many of the aqueducts in the capital were old enough to predate this format by centuries. Although not perfect, the integration of aqueducts into buildings and the city wall in Rome made them an almost invisible feature of the city, once the new network was completed in 871. In fields, an aqueduct was a symbol of civilization and prosperity but in a city, aqueducts were an eyesore.

Other than its new aqueducts, Rome and the quality of life of its residents declined following the earthquake and fires. Not only did massive slums spring up on the outskirts of the city but the markets became more overgrown with stalls than ever in recent history, forcing the repurposing of the Flavian Amphitheater as a marketplace. Ruins of a number of public buildings destroyed in the fires were largely left alone and the emperor no longer even lived within reach of the public.

Cassius has not been treated kindly by history for his inability to restore Rome after the earthquake, despite fiscal challenges of the time making such action effectively impossible without drastic reform. Negative reactions from his contemporaries are likely a major reason that his adopted son changed his stance between foederalis and patricianis partway through his life. When he became the Emperor of Rome, the requisite changes in administration would be made to implement a complete reconstruction of the capital. Cassius himself did not have the ability to completely betray his principles of federalism for the sake of Rome.

Sailing technology

With the Senate focused on exploring Africa, motivated by the profits coming its way through trade, other Romans were exploring the world on their own initiative. Many of these journeys were motivated somehow by the publication in 812 CE that speculated on the direction of the next great threat to the empire.

On these headings, one expedition left from Caledonia (Scotland) and another from Gallia Lugdunensis (Northern France) in search of the land of Thule. Records from the 1st century CE and earlier spoke of an island farther north than Britannia and some Romans believed that this might be an ancestral land for the Boreanari (Northmen). The first expedition returned in 855 without finding anything while the second never returned. News of their failure dissuaded further attempt to discover Thule, although it is probably that other people made attempts with no record left behind of their journey.

At the same time, a few Romans set out from the coast of the Oceanus Atlanticus to find the "middle kingdom" postulated by the above publication. Out of three attempts, only one returned in 883 after spending several months at sea. Two of these expeditions employed recent developments in sailing technology, passed onto Rome from the Kingdom of the Swedes (Regnum Sueonum). Northern longships were exceptional craft which resulted from unprecedented developments in shipbuilding.

First, the hull of a longship consisted of overlapping planks as opposed to joining planks of wood by inserting tenons on one plank into a mortise cavity on another. This clinker build allowed for a lighter and more durable hull. By 870, river boats in Germany and Gaul were mostly clinker-built and the design was occasionally employed in seafaring vessels. Second, the northmen rigged their primary sails using horizontal spars connecting perpendicularly to the mast of the ship. This square-rigging allowed a ship to have larger sails for catching more wind, permitting higher speeds on the open sea. However, unlike the popular lateen-rigging, a square rig could not sail upwind by beating, limit its use under less ideal conditions.

Together, these two new technologies would not produce the most impressive ocean-going vessel but the invention that changed navigation forever was the fusion of square-rigging and lateen-rigging into one vessel. Shipwrights in Germania Inferior created a ~19 meter long clinker-built ship whose central mast or mainmast was square-rigged and whose rear mast or mizzenmast was lateen-rigged. This vessel operated completely without rowing but still resembled the larger decareme and quinquereme galleys used by the navy since behind the masts was a massive aftcastle for additional crew quarters. Due to its unique sails and large size for merchant vessels, ships of this new design came to be referred to as amplaves (s. amplavis) by Roman sailors.

[no ship design in OTL exactly compares with a Roman amplavis but its mast arrangement resembles a carrack's with a hybrid of foremast and mainmast offset forward from the center and a mizzenmast in the rear while its body resembles a hybrid of a viking longship with a Roman quinquereme, including the peculiar aftcastle characteristic of Roman warships]

An amplavis built in Silurum (Newport, Wales) made an attempt to cross the Atlantic in 873 but never returned while the only ship that came back after a long journey deep into the Atlantic was an amplavis setting out in 869 from Lissipona (Lisbon, Portugal). After the latter mission, no serious attempts were made to cross the Atlantic Ocean and some Romans even wrote that the waters between Asia and Europe must truly be empty. Nevertheless, one writer in Rome who clung to the idea of a "middle kingdom" gave this undiscovered land the name Cassiopeia, both in honor of the long-reigning emperor and in reference to the constellation.

Cassiopeia would be one of the many names ascribed to the New World throughout Roman history. As the land in the middle of the Atlantic, the senator writing in 812 who first speculated on its existence had simply given it the name of Atlanta. Neither name would ultimately be used to designate the continent once discovered but each would find application there on a smaller scale.

Overall, hybrid rigging in ships was a revolutionary development for navigation. While merchants throughout the Atlantic provinces gradually adopted the design over the 9th century and early 10th century. However, the Senate was in too much turmoil in the 9th century to react to these improvements in naval technology. Unfortunately, it would take future emperors to take advantage of the amplavis for the Roman navy. Nevertheless, clinker-builds and square rigging snuck into the work of shipwrights for the navy near the mid-9th century, creating sturdier cursores (runners) and faster quinqueremes. Of course, runners continued to use the lateen rig since that had advantages for maneuverability and speed when compared to square rigs.

Paradigm shifts in mathematics

The mathematician Cardanus (796-859 CE) had inspired a revolution in mathematics, providing a framework for general methods in the solving of polynomials and for illustrating the study of such numerical relations independently of geometric problems. It took other mathematicians to actually express this new conceptualization of mathematics but Cardanus had started the transition. By the middle 9th century, mathematicians were regularly combining algebraic and geometric methods in their analyses of equations, the proper development of algebraic geometry (where geometry served more to interpret solutions than to find them). After the work of Cardanus, entirely algebraic methods could be used to find the roots of quadratic and cubic polynomials. By 860, other mathematicians had devised similarly general methods for finding the roots of quartic (4th-degree) polynomials.

Another revolution for which Cardanus paved the way was the sophistication of the Archimedean method of exhaustion. Taking up Cardanus' solution for the volume of a paraboloid and Archimedes' own solution for the volume of a sphere, the mathematician Lucius Tarius devised the method of indivisibles (methodus atomonorum) for more generally computing volumes and areas. For the computation of area, Tarius treated regions on a plane as series of parallel lines, such that the areas of two figures are equal if they are bound by parallel lines that are the same distance apart and the total length of the parallel lines that compose each region is equal to the length of those lines composing the other. Similarly, a solid in space was treated as a series of parallel planes, such that the volumes of the two solids are equal if they are bound by parallel planes that are the same distance apart and the total area of the parallel planes that compose each region is equal to that area for the other.

In practice, the method of indivisibles could be used, as it immediately was in 878, to compute the area around higher-degree polynomials than a quartic (since the 8th century, the limit of mathematicians using inductive proofs). Tarius himself took his proofs up to 10th-degree polynomials. Since the quadrature of the parabola was viewed by mathematicians in both the Alexandrian and Carthaginian traditions (the two dominant cities for mathematics) as one of the highest achievements of pre-Roman mathematics, the method and results of Tarius garnered tremendous attention from mathematicians. Quadratures of polynomials using the Tarian method quickly spread throughout the Roman world. There were attempts to apply this method to the quadrature of other figures, especially polynomials of fractional or negative degrees, but it took some years for any to succeed, especially since it took time for mathematicians to properly understand the Tarian method.

As was the custom in Roman society, discoveries in mathematics were usually distilled quickly into textbooks or summaries that were easily digestible by other mathematicians and, in recent times, easily printed in mass quantities. This process accelerated the process of disseminating mathematical knowledge and was itself facilitated by scholars sharing ideas through letters. By this time, the printing houses of the Musaeum of Alexandria (Institute of the Muses) and the Technaeum of Carthage were some of their primary sources of income, as the Senate continued to provide less and less funds to these institutions.

Irrational magnitudes

By accepting irrational magnitudes as solutions, Cardanus had paved the way for another expansion of the concept of a number. After Cardanus, number referred to any quantity that could be expressed as the ratio of integers, whereas a magnitude was any quantity that could be expressed as a line on a geometric figure. For over a millennium, Graeco-Roman mathematicians regarded numbers as distinct from magnitudes, since more quantities were magnitudes than were numbers. Aulus Stevinus introduced the conception of an irrational number to better accommodate solutions that were not rational magnitudes, even inventing the terms numerus rationabilis and numerus irrationabilis for these different classes of numbers. His focus was on irrational numbers that were found as the roots of non-square integers, although he also regarded the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter and the golden ratio as irrational based on the work of Cardanus on their approximate decimal representations.

Roots of negatives

Cardanus had dismissed the possibility of solving certain polynomials, given that no real number sufficed. In particular, some formulae demanded the square root of a negative number. The great mathematician Diophantus of Alexandria had similarly ignored solutions in this domain (also ignoring negative solutions for polynomial equations, which Cardanus did not). However, this dismissal did not arise in a text written in 891 by Johannis Venerius on how the roots of negatives can be handled in polynomials (more specifically, his treatment of 2nd-degree polynomials and of geometric problems of quadrupling square figures sometimes required the manipulation of the square roots of negative numbers, sometimes even as supposed solutions). His systematic analysis of these unorthodox numbers was not considered a work of any substance by his peers, since they were seen as not involving real numbers (in the colloquial sense of the word "real", which here accords with the technical term "real number"). Nevertheless, his text on complex numbers would find use over the next few centuries since some solutions to polynomials were real but could not be found without some manipulation of complex numbers - only in this sense did mathematicians acknowledge roots of negatives.

Military strength

By the 9th century, the military strength of different civilizations varied enormously based on demographic, geographic, sociological, and technological factors. In particular, the military strength available to a nation depended on the size of its population, the distance of its people to regions of conflict, the willingness of its people to engage in and prepare for war, the ability of the nation's governing body (if it had one) to mobilize people for war, and the access of this government to weaponry and armor. The three states (some composed of multiple nations) that were the dominant military great powers within their respective geopolitical regions were the Chinese Empire of the Tang, the Roman Empire, and the Federation of Maya cities. Each faced potent military rivals in their local areas but none could be matched within its sphere of influence.

Chinese army

China fielded an army whose size varied wildly throughout the Tang period but reached a height during the 8th century when over 500,000 professional soldiers were regularly employed by the state. These numbers were needed to face the countless enemies that threatened the stability of the Tang dynasty, including the Tibetan Empirerebellious generals, and Turkic nomads. Not only was China a populous state but its people were strongly beholden to their emperor and could be relatively easily mobilized for war or for preparation for possible conflicts. Perhaps the greatest advantage of China besides numbers was its access to master steelsmiths, who had been developing their techniques for centuries. Some masters forged blades with a thin layer of chromium that prevented rust and kept the edge sharp for thousands of years, solely as a result of finding processes that had good products. Some Chinese crossbows were repeating weapons (chu-ke nu) of a similar design to the polytrahos and with similar variations in size. Stronger, one-shot crossbows were still favored due to the tendency for China to fight armored foes.

An ideal Chinese soldier had years of training before seeing combat on the field of battle but tumultuous times often prevented this level of professionalism. The quality of soldiers varied almost as much as the quantity under the Tang. By the end of this century, Tang China collapsed in the face of regional warlords, splitting the once mighty empire into thirteen kingdoms.

Roman army

Rome divided its army into three distinct forces, each with its own responsibilities. The Auxilia Municipia referred to the various town guards employed by cities whose population exceeded 80,000 people (a settlement defined as an urbs). Every urbs had a city senate that would face penalties unless there was one guardsman for every 1,000 residents of the city. Most town guards had a spatha (iron longsword) and a polytrahos, although their training usually came from a history in the Legion rather than from specialized training given to guardsmen.

Guards in the Auxilia Valla were tasked with defending the border fortifications alongside professional legionaries. Their training involved a lot more practice with Roman artillery and archery than a town guard would receive. These auxiliaries were expected (or at least hoped) to never enter hand-to-hand combat, although their armories usually had enough spathae for every man.

The Legion was the primary arm of the Roman military. Like the Chinese armed forces, its composition reflected a sophisticated combination of arms and a high degree of training. For a legionary, archer, or knight (i.e. for any non-artillery position in the Legion), five years of training were required before entering service. No other branch of the army fought outside the frontiers of the empire, making the legionaries and their support positions military face of Rome in other realms. Caesar Cassius diminished the size of the Legion in a process of moderate demilitarization now that the borders of the empire were more stable. With this in mind, the majority of Roman forces were concentrated in the eastern provinces on the border with the two caliphates.

Cassius had redistributed the legions to locate nine legions across provinces from Cappadocia to Arabia Petraea. Another six legions were allocated for AegyptusNubia, and Aethiopia. After Cassius changed Mauritania to a senatorial province, the remaining legions could be found in TauricaDacia, and Germania. In particular, Taurica had two legions, Dacia was given five legions for the border along the Tyras River, and the German provinces shared the remaining four legions. In total, Rome fielded 26 legions worth of foot soldiers, officers, archers, artillerymen, surgeons, and knights spread across twelve provinces.

As can be seen on a map, this division of the Legion created an interesting division of the Roman Empire. Since legions could only be stationed in a province governed by a legatus augustus or praefectus provincialis and these were the types of governors for the imperial provinces, the entire empire was effectively split into Eastern and Western halves, where the latter were under the control of the Senate and the former were administered by the Caesar (with the exception of Greece and part of Anatolia). In other words, the power of the emperors was largely concentrated in the East and that of the Senate in the West. This situation would have shocking repercussions as the rivalry between political factions in Rome reached a head. After almost two centuries of rulers who sympathized with the foederalis faction, the conflict between foederales and patricianes was starting to represent a conflict between the interests of the emperor and those of the patricians. For now, this antagonism remained in the political sphere.

Muslim armies

The Ummah (Islamic World) was divided into Persian and Arabian halves, each wielding armies of a similar size. Fatimid armies had more contact with India, in addition to inheriting Persian traditions, while the Umayyads were in closer contact with Rome and were largely defined by their commercial and military rivalry. For this reason, an Umayyad army usually consisted of professional soldiers equipped with iron weapons and scaled armor. Although their numbers tended to be low, they fought better than any other troops, with the exception of Roman legionaries. The Umayyad Caliphate had a powerful navy during the 9th century, consisting of lateen-rigged dhows with speed to match a Roman runner.

On the other hand, the Fatimid Caliphate relied on levies and mercenaries. Unlike the Umayyads, the Fatimids founded their military and political systems on Persian precursors. They employed large numbers of heavy cavalry from the Persian elite and their Persian infantry favored lances in with light shields. In addition to these local troops, the Fatimids relied heavily on battalions of Turkish mercenaries, taken from the Karakhanids and Uyghurs in the steppe lands. These Turks have acquired prominent positions, some occupying spots in the upper echelons of the Fatimid army and others serving as palace guards to the Caliph.

Combining its mercenary and Persian forces, the Fatimids tend to have the advantage of numbers while Persian steel gives them a certain technological edge against their eastern foes. Overall, the Fatimids and Umayyads were far from evenly matched. In a straight war, the Fatimid Caliphate would overrun Arabia but they were pressed from two more sides than the Umayyads and could never direct their focus on the Islamic heartland, maintaining a balance of power in the region.

Nordic voyages

People in exile from King Hafnir, the first ruler of a united Kingdom of Norway, had landed on the Faroe Islands in 833. Some settlers from the same groups that came to the Faroes continued farther west in 847 to settle on another island in the region. This second island had only one settlement, a small farm around a brick monastery of Caledonian monks. The monks were discovered a few years later by the Norwegian settlers, who killed them and took their lands. The northerners named their new land Snæland (Iceland), for its climate, and word of mouth attracted a number of Norwegian exiles and travelers to its shores.

As the settlements grew, trade sprung up with Hibernia (Ireland) and Caledonia (Scotland), sometime around 891. Some of the more noble and wealthy colonists united the settlements under a quadruple kingship (tetrarchy) by the end of the 9th century. This system lasted for one generation before the son of one king married the daughter of another and fought the elderly kings for full control over the island. The war forced people out of Snæland, many fleeing farther west rather than returning to Norway.

When the war reached its height in 914, a few thousand people had landed on the distant shores of a new island. Since this land stretched from horizon to horizon, its settlers named it Fimbuland (Great Land). For now, these islands would become a place of refuge for people exiled from the kingdoms of Scandinavia, where many merchants knew of the distant lands by the 10th century. Trade with Roman Britain was sufficiently scarce that their existence would not be known to Rome for some time.

Growth of the Church

An unusual trend characterizes the history of Christianity. As Rome became Christian, Christianity became Roman. Over time, the concepts of Christianitas and Romanitas had become intertwined in public consciousness. Both the Senatus Romanus and the Ecclesia Christiana are referred to as Roma by most commoners living outside the capital. In this sense, Rome was viewed by the provincial public as both its spiritual and political authority. Some people even confused the princeps civitatis (emperor) with the pontifex maximus (pope), as in thinking the face on coins was a pope or the emperor represented God on Earth. This joining of Christian and Roman traditions into a single culture had reached its steady-state and zenith by the 9th century.

Christian virtues

In some ways, the teachings of Jesus diametrically opposed the mos maiorum (ancestral customs) of Rome while in others the two could not have been more similar. Their greatest difference came from their positions on how to live. Early Christians were heavily encouraged to devote their lives to preparing for life after death. Those Christians who believed that good works were required for a good afterlife were inclined to do good works for the sake of achieving this state and were concerned more with an enjoyable eternity than a happy life - indeed, the hope for an eternity of paradise after a miserable earthly existence was one factor that had made Christian doctrine more palatable to the common people. By contrast, a Roman lifestyle was devoted to worldly pursuits and good behavior for the sake of eudaimonia (flourishing) or ataraxia (tranquility), depending on one's philosophical views. Even the commoners without knowledge of philosophy held similar ideals for less formal reasons.

On a similar note, Romans associated aretus (excellence) with masculinity and valor (virtus), in conjunction with more universal moral qualities such as prudenceself-control, and fairness. Virtue and masculinity were closely tied concepts in Roman culture, where both were seen as contributing to a good life. Early Christian morals were more passive, communal, and servile compared to the bold and dominant morals of contemporary Roman civilization. Over time, Roman values mixed with Christian values but the Roman ones were assimilated more by Christianity than the Christian ones by Romanity. Some counterexamples to this trend are the shift from ancestor worship to veneration of parents, an increasing intolerance of violence, a more equitable relationship within marriage, and loss of emphasis on the mutual aspect of piety, to the point that God is seen to owe humans nothing but gives everything out of generosity rather than duty (whereas Christians are seen as having certain duties toward God and priests as having certain additional obligations toward God through their vota (vows)).

By the 9th century, the five principle virtues exalted by the Church were:

  • Pietas: respectful attitude toward God, the emperor, and one's parents, by performing the duties owed to each.
  • Temperantia: restrained attitude toward personal desires, by exercising self-control without complaint.
  • Gravitas: persevering attitude toward civil duties, moral duties, and responsibilities in work.
  • Caritas: loving attitude toward every person, by treating them with kindness and respecting their well-being.
  • Prudentia: ability to judge correctly in moral deliberation and factual contemplation.

These qualities have been widely referenced in Christian literature and art since their first mention as a group in the 5th century. Although Roman society has other values, these values often possess a religious connotation and are studied intently by members of the Church, causing many priests to reference them during missa (weekly communal act of worship).

Moral theology

Early Christianity followed the lead of Divus Augustinus (Saint Augustine) in its formulation of ethics. In particular, Christians held that every person was born free of sin and, with an original capacity for sin, could become virtuous or sinful adults based upon moral education throughout childhood. Since the actions of children were seen to reflect their developing character, children were considered morally responsible and discipline was considered essential to keeping the development of their character on the right track, based on its expression through their (good or bad) actions. Roman culture focused largely on this correctional view of responsibility. However, through Augustine, Christian influences on Roman beliefs in responsibility had in view the effect of one's character on the outcome of one's life after death. In particular, the orthodox position was that the dead were personally more or less close to the summum bonum (supreme good - i.e. God) depending on the virtuous or sinful nature of their souls (in the form of moral character). All human beings were seen as sharing in God's nature as free and rational beings, returning to the natural position upon death depending on similarity to that Holy Spirit (Spiritus Divus - one of the forms of God). A bad character was not only seen as needing correction due to its effect on other people but also for the sake of the bad person's soul. The fusion of a pragmatic reason with a theological reason is characteristic of Roman Christianity and Roman culture as a whole.

Morality itself was seen as stemming from the summum bonum, in the sense that God was the idea of the Good and the only pure good in existence. By contrast, humans were imperfect and had the potential to be evil (malum) in their voluntary or free actions (actiones libertates), as much as humans also had the potential for good (as far as theologians were concerned). In this view, all evil in the world is a form of imperfection and of dissimilarity to God - only good things stemming from God.

The specific moral principles held by the Church revolved around the praecepta optima (Greatest Commandments), taken from passages of Matthew, Luke, and Mark in the New Testament. As heard by Romans, the commandment read, "diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo et in tota anima tua et diliges proximuum tuum sicut te ipsum". Theologians had taken these rules to nearly every ethical dilemma that faced citizens of Rome, including political dilemmas in advice to senators and the emperor. Under the influence of Aristotle, starting in the late 5th century, these principles justified the development of the virtues that are described above, representing the ideal path for striving toward the summum bonum (in fulfillment of the function of mankind).

Papal influence

When Caesar Constantine relinquished his title of pontifex maximus to the Bishop of Rome at the Council of Alexandria, he simultaneously enforced the decision of the council to give that bishop a dominant position in the Christian community, as the sole successor to Divus Petrus (Saint Peter). As part of his office, the Pope was a spiritual advisor to the Caesar in Rome and was the most highly esteemed priest within the community of bishops. In other words, the Pope was seen as the possessor of the highest authority among bishops. During the 5th century, this authority was extended to deciding on the allocation of the finances of the Church and by the 7th century, it became formalized in the dissemination of papal charters (epistulae canonae) to every bishop. These charters were the format for delivering orders to the Christian community through the bishops (episkopes), orders that were either practical advice for responding to contemporary events or spiritual advice for forming judgements on theological matters. A similar role was played by the ecumenical councils that came to define the doctrines of the early Church. In principle, papal authority on morals was limited by biblical hermeneutics at the discretion of the Collegium Augurium (College of Augurs). In this sense, the Pope did not have the ultimate authority over Church doctrines on theological or moral truths.

In the 9th century, the Church owned nearly a third as much land (ager ecclesius) as the state (ager publicus), making the Church the second larger landowner. As a result, the wealth of the Church was substantial and included property for temples as well as property for commercial endeavors on behalf of the Church. Ecclesiastical wealth went toward the foundation and repair of temples, the sustenance of priests, the payment of servants, and the care of the poor. By decree of Pope Higerius in 563, the Church had to give one denarius to the poor for every four denarii devoted to other expenses. No Pope after him had issued a decree to annul this administrative rule, although there have been numerous years where the Church had failed to hold itself to this standard.

For administration, a Pope relied on his cardinales (cardinals) - priests tasked with advising the Pope and sharing his duties. While the Church employed accountants and bankers, decisions on its expenditures and general management of its income were handled by priests appointed by the Pope as cardinals. Under Pope Urbanus II (883-890), there were fifty cardinals in Rome. One of their most solemn duties was to create the list of priests who would vote in the election of a Pope. Usually, this list included the most senior priests in the city of Rome alongside a number of archepiscopes (archbishops) and regular bishops.

In secular affairs, the Pope acted more as servant than authority, except during the reign of Caesar Aurelius, when the Church in effect used the emperor as a puppet. Many pontiffs were directly chosen by an emperor and there was one case of a Pope being put to death by an emperor for treason but the independence of papal elections was achieved by charter of Pope Francis in 838. This change marked the origin of an official procedure for selecting the Bishop of Rome.

As one of the more pious emperors, Caesar Cassius relied heavily on the advice of the Pope, adding a high ranking cardinal to the Concilium Civium (Council of Citizens) as an imperial adviser. Around 860, Cassius had gotten into a habit of using his adviser from the Church to learn more about the commoners in the provinces. By the end of his reign, most bishops were sending several letters each year to the cardinals in Rome to bring word of problems facing their congregations (usually, an assistant wrote the letter on behalf of the bishop he served). In effect, the officia augusta cardinalis (cardinal of the imperial staff) came to serve the role of keeping an emperor aware of the minutiae of life in the provinces, through the letters chosen for him by the cardinals tasked with reading any letters from other dioceses that were addressed to the Pope. More formal messages were delivered by the apocrisiarius of the bishop, his personal messenger within the hierarchy of the Church.


Although the Pope had a privileged position within the Church, several other bishops held similar influence on local religious affairs. In particular, Augustine had advised the Emperor Aurelius on dividing the Christian community into liturgies, each with its respective language, prayers, rituals, and aesthetics. Each liturgy was effectively steered by one of the Patriarchs of the Church. For his part, the Pope was the Patriarch of Latium and generally managed the Latin liturgy, serving as a model for the other liturgies. In the East, the major liturgies were the Greek liturgy centered on Byzantium, the Syrian liturgy with its patriarch in Antioch, and the Coptic liturgy whose cultural focus was the cathedral in Alexandria. The liturgical structure of the Church played a central role in the dissemination of Christian doctrines to the temples in the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. In this regard, the Patriarchs steered bishops and other priests away from the local heresies that plagued the early Christian community. Aside from the above four patriarchs, the last patriarch that formed the Pentarchy or Patriarchy of the Church was the Patriarch of Parisium, who steered the customs of the Gallic liturgy.

On the whole, the influence of the Christian Church through its liturgies barely extended beyond the frontiers of the Roman Empire. Venetian and Sarmatian nobles followed the Roman interpretations of the Bible and the Venetians had their own archepiskopos (archbishop) appointed by the Church to oversee and ordain priests within the Kingdom of Venetia. Sarmatian priests either came from the Roman Empire or were ordained by visiting Roman bishops before Cassius pushed the Pope to consecrate a cathedral in the Sarmatian capital city of Maghas, as had been done in Venetia a century earlier. These foreign archdioceses followed the Latin and Greek liturgies respectively but had periphery roles in their spiritual affairs due to their distance and minor prestige.

Orders of priests

As an institution, the Catholic Church had distant influences within the empire and was extremely complex. Strictly speaking, there were two distinct sources of authority within the Church: (a) the College of Augurs in Rome and Alexandria, and (b) the bishops spread throughout the entire Christian world (extending slightly beyond the Roman world). As part of the bishopric authority, there was the Templum de Virgo Maria, where the symbolic Fire of Rome was tended by the Marianes (Marian Virgins) who had the additional tasks of tending to the poor of the city with food and attending to the preparation of food for Christian festivals, and the Ordo Cardinales (Order of Cardinals) devoted the administration of the Church affairs. Both groups worked alongside the Bishop of Rome, contributing to the unique authority of the Pope, but other groups had been founded elsewhere in the empire, although the early Egyptian and Syrian practices of hermeticism and monasticism did not take root as the purpose of priests and religious orders was seen as guiding the public - hence, the term pastor (shepherd) as an alternative to sacerdos (priest).

Perhaps the most prominent order within the Church is the Ordo Erapostolum (Order of Preachers or Order of the Apostle Paul). Founded by Aurelius in 404 as the Collegium Ierapostolum (College of Missionaries), the members of this organization were sent into the farthest reaches of the empire to participate in the conversion of non-Christians. Where priests were regarded as guides to Christians, keeping lay people on the path of orthodoxy and thinning out belief in heresies, the missionaries of the college were assigned the task of converting polytheists (obviously to Catholic rather than unorthodox beliefs). When the Church instituted its distinction between collegia and ordones in , the college entered its formal period. All members of a religious order were required to make a votum sacer (sacred vow) to celibacy, poverty, and obedience in contrast to the simpler vows of temperance, piety, and chastity taken by all ordained members of the Church (whose institutions are referred to as collegia). In its 9th century form, the Ordo Erapostolum consisted of erapostoles (missionaries) tasked by bishops or archbishops with spreading the doctrines of the Church beyond the frontiers of the empire. For this mission, the preachers are one of the farthest reaching influences of Rome and have mediated many interactions between foreign kings and Rome itself.

Members of the Ordo Erapostolum were also famous as theologians and scholars on matters of faith. Their duties in Rome were the maintenance of the canonical list of personae divae (saints) and of records on the locations of templa (Christian temples). In this capacity, the order had long had members in the College of Cardinals.

Moral philosophy

In the 9th century, ethics in the academies of Rome largely depended on the Church - otherwise, moral philosophers were at least restricted in their beliefs by Church doctrine. Both the Stoa Poikele and Stoa Erudimena remained as the dominant schools of moral philosophy in Rome and Athens respectively. These schools advocated Christian Stoicism - in short, the view that the good life could only be achieved by not yielding to the passions and submitting to the will of God. Some particular beliefs of this form of Stoicism were that humans were free, except insofar as they indulged their emotions and instincts, and that peace of mind (ataraxia) was best achieved by following divine commands (i.e. orthodox Catholic morality), from the separation of one's feelings from pleasures and material gain, from the happiness derived from virtue, and from the spiritual happiness of closeness to God - all of which were taken to result from desiring whatever God wills. In general, these Stoics saw the misfortunes that befell men as completely beyond their control, advocating that they leave these uncontrollable affairs to God, and saw the suffering of men as the result of their own opinions rather than the effect of these misfortunes - adding that those who submitted to God would face fewer misfortunes (by being in harmony with the cosmos) and would weather any that they did experience with greater peace.


This worldview owed itself to the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus more than Seneca or Cicero, although it took from these other influences in certain ways as well. In light of Christian virtues, the Stoics emphasized that of gravitas and added to it the aspect of constantia (perseverance against misfortune), in addition to the traditional steadiness with regard to duties and work. In 562, the Christian Stoic Fairenes of Athens published De Gravitas in Malis, a lengthy treatise divided into three parts that went on to define the entire Stoic tradition of the Roman-Christian world.

The first part of De Gravitas is a descriptive account of the passions and the human will, entitled "De Pathia" ("On the Passions"). Regarding all passions as caused by or about some stimulus, Fairenes defined the passions based on their directionality toward this stimulus of the passion: appetite is a passion toward the stimulus (which he regarded as arising either directly from the senses or indirectly through the imagination of the stimulus) and aversion is a passion away from the stimulus. Under this classification, he treated hate as aversion in the presence of that stimulus and love as desire in the presence of that stimulus (as opposed to the mere opinion of desire or aversion in the absence of what is desired or avoided). The object of these passions was referred to him as desires (propentiones) and grievances (indignationes) - in some places, he considers them subjective goods and subjective evils respectively but his preference for the former terminology is clear in the treatise.

Under this system, the sensation of a propentio is pleasure and of an indignatio is pain - whereas the imagination of these things is experienced as joy and grief respectively. In between these feelings toward material things, Fairenes recognized objects of total indifference to a person, as neither propentio nor indignatio. The passions of fear, hope, fortitude, and despair were brought in as reflecting confidence or diffidence respectively in the reception of the indignatio or propentio respectively (e.g. fear was taken to be confidence in receiving something to which one is aversive). Only spending a short time on such psychological considerations, Fairenes argued that a person who acted solely upon these passions was not free, as under the bondage of emotion, and that only a person who acted upon deliberation was truly free (a state he equated with the possession of strong willpower). Only the commands of prudence were regarded as free with respect to actions toward oneself and only the commands of (Christian) morals were taken to initiate free actions toward others.

The rest of this part focused on the categorization of passions according to their specific objects (e.g. curiosity, as desire for knowledge, or compassion, as desire for the joy or pleasure of another person) and of vices in the same system (e.g. greed as excessive desire for wealth and power, or pride as joy from the imagination of one's power). By contrast, the remainder of the first part was devoted to explaining how certain virtues arose solely from prudent deliberation.

The second part of De Gravitas confronted grief and pain, focusing on the passions from which they arose, and explicating ways that a rational outlook would suppress them and how the practice of (rational) deliberation would avoid them. The latter sections of this part of the treatise were devoted to the predictive project of arguing that complete acceptance of Christian morals (as in the praecepta optima) would lead to a world with less suffering through its advocated virtues of benevolence and humility.

Lastly, the third part outlined how the practice of virtue should manifest at the level of the Senate and the activities of the emperor. In this part, the reigning Caesar Fabius I was praised for his enlightened practices and moderating influence on the Senate. Even so, Fairedes had a great deal to recommend the state, especially on the point of greater devotion of funds to the dole (annona) and to the provision of medical care for impoverished citizens. Furthermore, Fairedes praised the then recent enfranchisement of Greece and noted that the entire Greek Civil War would have been avoided had such equal practices been instituted originally.

A contemporary philosopher by the name of Dionada, who historians now consider the last atomist of the ancient tradition, was a staunch critic of Fairenes and his doctrines on the passions and reason. He presented a short counter treatise establishing how the supposed effects of deliberation were only other forms of desire and aversion, such that all actions were based on passions. The arguments of Dionada drew upon a mechanistic view of human psychology, where actions resulted from something like the pulling of strings or pushing of levers within the brain and only regulated by the spontaneous redirection of some of these parts as befit the freedom of human beings. Despite this polemic, the treatise of Fairedes became widely accepted by Roman intellectuals and the Church, leaving Dionada and his atomism to fall into obscurity in natural as well as moral philosophy.

Not only did De Gravitas determine the arguments of Stoics for the following centuries but it also shaped the stances of senators, as its ideas were constantly cited by the foederales in support of their programs. Only the failure of the state to support the capital after the earthquake was enough to shake this moral foundation of their ideology and lend the support even of the Stoics to the other faction in the Senate.

Statistics for the Roman Empire of 889 CE

More than 700 years after the PoD, the world has drastically changed from OTL. First, the Roman Empire survives throughout more than only Greece and Anatolia. Second, the Muslim Caliphates have been restricted from the Mediterranean Sea and are moving slowly through their proselytizing of Africa. Third, the threat of vikings to Europeans has been nipped in the bud by a strategic invasion at various points during the 9th century CE. Finally, technology and culture in Western and Eastern Europe have taken completely different directions, with the inklings of an early age of navigation being already in the making.

Population: 159 million (37.9% of humans)

Area: 9,037,000 km²

GDP: 15.3 billion denarii (~$260 billion US)

Treasury: 4 million denarii (~$68 million US)

Government revenue: 1.11 billion denarii (~$18.8 billion US), 7.25% of GDP

Military spending: 308 million denarii (27.7% of revenue or 2.01% of GDP)

Military size: 166,400 legionaries (26 legions), 216,000 auxiliaries, and 10,000 praetorian guards

Legislature: 1,000 senators

Christianity: >99% of citizens

Middle Tyrian Dynasty:
1514 (761)-1588 (835)
Reign of Cassius:
1588 (835)-1642 (889)
Reign of Calvinus:
1642 (889)-1669 (916)

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