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Alternate History

951-986 CE (Superpowers)

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Reign of Brutus:
1645 (892)-1704 (951)
Reign of Claudius II:
1704 (951)-1739 (986)
Pre-Schism Years:
1739 (986)-1765 (1012)

After the death of the Emperor Brutus, his eldest surviving son, Publius Claudius Moratius was given the throne. In the great procession he was dubbed Emperor Claudius, the second emperor to receive that title. Many considered it an odd choice, given the history behind the name, but Claudius II was very proud of the heritage of his name, and unlike most people, recognized the good history behind it. Whilst Claudius II made no great achievements during his reign, he ruled during a period of great turmoil, a time when the Empire for the first time felt as if it could be conquered. However the way he handled the situation, and his ultimate sacrifice for the Empire, has allowed him to go down in history as the Heroic Emperor.

Civil Events

Many of Claudius' efforts in the public field were dedicated to upgrading and repairing much of the Roman infrastructure, a job that was a little more difficult than usual every 200 years or so. Whilst doing so, Claudius decided to dramatically increase the number of large inter-provincial roads that stretched across the Empire. Although these had been destroyed centuries ago by Sapiens for the high-upkeep costs required to maintain them, the Empire's wealth was now at such a level that it could much more easily afford this, and the benefits of having more major roads. The improved network was completed around 975, just in time for the next big war.

The major issue for the beginning of his reign was a rather surprising one though. Wood, one of the most important resources in the world, had steadily become more scarce a good. Europe, once covered in continent wide forests, was now in danger of having this resource completely depleted. Economists together with botanists calculate that at the Empire's current rate of consumption, there would be virtually no trees anywhere in Europe by 1100 CE. Whilst many in the Senate waved this off as a problem for the future, not the present, Claudius at least had the foresight to now that the problem might become unresolvable by that time. In 957 he therefore began working closely with the Empire's greatest experts to find a solution to the problem. The solution they came up with was as simple as it was effective.

A law was passed the following year that required for anyone to cut down a tree, two more needed to be planted in the very same area. Anyone caught not following this law was subject to a crippling fine. Though this should have been enough to solve the problem, the emperor and his panel of experts were still worried that with enough people not obeying the law, there still might be a gradual decline. He therefore founded the Ministry of Forestry in 961, an office in the government dedicated to the continued existence of a large source of wood, and the maintenance of the Empire's vast forests.

One of the most important jobs of the ministry was to organize the shifting of "Protected" and "Unprotected" zones. This was extraordinarily difficult, and to be effective, required a more precise mapping of the Empire's land. Once the cartography was completed in 965, the business of establishing a system for these zones was underway.

Essentially the way this system worked was that entire areas would be declared off-limits for people to cut down. Scouts would be sent periodically to be sure that there were still as many trees there as when they last checked. If not, an investigation ensued. Whilst an area was "Protected" like this, the government would also send people to plant more trees until the entire zone was covered completely. After a few decades of being a protected zone, they would then become unprotected, and open to forestry again. This shuffling was usually noted in the weekly Nuntia, or could be found out by visiting the nearest government building with an Officer of the Forest.

Although this second method was far more complex than the first, its effectiveness was even more remarkable. By the end of Claudius reign, forests in the Empire had already grown by about 10%, the first time in centuries that there had even been growth, much less such a high level of it. The only downside was that the upkeep costs were very large, and by the end of his rule, the Empire's debt was reaching about 30% of their GDP. The main cause of this however had nothing to do with upkeep costs, but rather, war.

Military

The start of Claudius' reign was marked by the wrapping up of the decades long Icelandic Wars with the Treaty of Reykjavik in 953. This treaty divided the island into an eastern Roman half and a Danish western half. As soon as the treaty was made, Claudius ordered the creation of an enormous defensive wall to cut across the island, right along their border. Although the Danes were bothered by this development, their tremendous losses in war, and their distaste for building walls themselves stopped them from either retaliating or building one of their own.

With the embarrassing loss of the war in the eyes of the Danes, their government was on the verge of collapsing. What was once a united federation of kingdoms, modeled after the Germanic Federation, was now an amalgam of warring tribes, ironically a similar scenario to the early Germany. During the turmoil of the Danish Civil War, a small King, who had somehow maintained neutrality in the conflict, was on a voyage to explore the world to the west. Using knowledge of a circular world gained from the Romans, Erik the Wise (OTL Erik the Red) hoped to reach the rich cities of China. If he could manage this, the riches obtained through trade would make him the most powerful Danish King, and perhaps the new leader of the Federation.

Setting sail for this new world, Erik arrived on the shore of an entirely different landmass in 957, one which he deceptively called Groenland. Despite the unforgiving climate and environment, it reminded him of home and he established the settlement of Brattahlíð that same year. Through what many consider to be the first example of an ad campaign, Erik lobbied for his new colony and once news had spread, hundreds of people were flocking to this new world of promise, free of the pain of Scandinavian life. His popularity grew and Erik was becoming viewed as a beacon of hope in the bleak world of the Xth Century Danish Empire. He was elected as the new Head of the United Danish Kingdoms in 961 and almost immediately, he started to reform the country for the better.

On his death in 986 CE, the Danish Kingdoms were a very different place than it was when Erik was born. People were living peaceful and more satisfying lives than they had before, trade with Rome was booming and cultural interest was focused on expanding the Danelaw to these new lands in Groenland. The population of Brattahlíð had grown to over 10,000 people and there was no sign that public interest would ever wane. It was the start of both the Danish Colonial Era and Golden Age, a time not too dissimilar from the Dutch Golden Age during the OTL Renaissance.

In the Roman Empire, things were taking a different turn, from a military perspective anyways. Though the reign of Claudius II was initially peaceful, their foes to the East, the Shi'ite Kingdom had finally finished consolidating their power internally and were now more than stable enough to engage in a war of almost any length. Therefore in 979 CE, following the emergence of a new Caliph, the Shi'ites declared Holy war against Christian Europe. Still unable to penetrate the Great Judaean Wall, the forces of Islam were forced to make a surprise attack by sea across the Mare Rubrum, landing just ahead of the Horn of Africa where the Somali tribes lived.

With more than 3 million professional soldiers under his command, Caliph Agarman Ibn Ali and his generals were certain that it would be a victory for the Islamic World. His intentions were to conquer the rich lands of Axum and Aegyptus, which he expected to revolt against Rome as he arrived, and then take the Holy Land of the Jews and Christians, centered around the city of Jerusalem. To do this he knew, he'd need to get past the might of more than 30 trained legions, something with no civilization had ever been able to do. His soldiers and generals however were some of the best trained in the world, many being taught tactics in civilize India and having trained in the rough Kazakh Deserts. This made his army perfect for a war in the deserts of Egypt.

For the first year, a foothold was established in Somalia and an additional 2 million soldiers were brought over by boat, though tens of thousands were lost when the Roman Classis moved in to intercept them. Once they'd set up their bases and stocked their army, the Shi'ite Army began its march to Alexandria. Moving slowly and carefully, the Arabs brought down the Somali Wall and marched into the Axum province. Although the three legions there kept them occupied for two years, they managed to take the city of Axum itself before the start of 983 CE. In that next year, the situation in Rome was looking grim. The government was shocked at how far the Muslims had gotten, and many in the public were beginning to put doubt into the ability of the state to protect them.

In order to prevent a crisis, Claudius II went to see Pope Urbanus III to ask for guidance. Simply telling him that everything would be all right, the Emperor left in a furor, cursing right in front of Urbanus. The next day, the Pope called for a public announcement in the Coliseum in Rome and stated that the Christian World was in grave danger, and that the good Christians in the Empire must rise up to help their government in defending themselves. He called for a Crusade against the forces of Islam. The papers were all buzzing about his speech and within less than a week, 6 million able-bodied men were signed up to begin auxiliary training. The Emperor, pleased at this surprising developed, publicly walked into the Coliseum and apologized for his conduct the day before, much to the confusion of the audience which had gathered there.

Until their three years of training were complete though, five more legionaries were brought to Axum to prevent their entry into Aegyptus. Building rudimentary defenses along the provincial border, this force managed to hold them off for a full two years, making sure that they paid in blood for every inch they took. Nevertheless, the Arab forces were simply too powerful. New soldiers were slipping onto the Continent almost every year, since the Navy was focused on keeping them away from Upper Red Sea, and couldn't stop them at the southern part. The Shi'ite Army now numbered seven million soldiers, larger than any army in recorded history.

In 986 the reinforcements could finally be brought into the fray. All at once, two million fresh auxiliaries, 14 Legions and five Testudos were brought into Aegyptus. This renewed force managed to push the Arabs back several hundred km, but since the Testudos couldn't be in all places at once, the army eventually slipped past the Roman forces in 988. Within a month they'd taken the city of Herakleopolis which they were besieging before Roman reinforcements arrived, and they began to move to take the great city of Thebes. Following an eight day siege, the Roman forces caught up to them, and were again renewed with three million more auxiliaries, and on the ninth day clashed just 7 km from the city.

Although the battle resulted in a combined death toll of nearly 2.5 million soldiers, it was a resounding and bloody victory for the Romans, and exactly what they needed after several years of receiving only bad news. A month following the Battle of Thebes, one which has gone down in history as the bloodiest war, being featured in numerous works of art, an additional one million auxiliaries bolstered the Roman forces. It was at this point that the Caliph, who survived the battle, learned a sad truth. The Roman Empire was simply to big to fight. It had resources that more than tripled their own and a population nearly ten times larger than theirs. Nothing, it seemed, could end their supremacy.

Within six years, virtually all Arab forces were expelled from the continent, the wall was rebuilt in Somalia and all Romans everywhere could breath a sigh of relief. The Crusades were a success and they had proven once again that no one messes with the Romans. However, all of this might have only been a shallow victory. Claudius II died leading his men at the First Battle of Herakleopolis in 986, providing the fervor to his men to fight on despite his demise, and his two brothers bickered whilst leading armies in Aegyptus, his youngest brother Norbanus even having Claudius III (986-988), the de jure Emperor, assassinated in 988 to consolidate his own power. Furthermore, the public, and even worse the army, had become disillusioned with their own government, seeing the bloody lengths they'd go to just to achieve their goals.

Conversely, the power of the Church was at its height, Pope Urbanus III having popularized the idea of a "public Pope", one who traveled more frequently and was more connected to his people. As well, the entire success of the Crusade was attributed to him and Claudius II, not the current Roman government and Senate. The Roman public, from Carthage to Constantinopolis, was now clinging to their religious head, the Pope, and no longer the figure of the Emperor. For the first time since the start of the Empire, it seemed like even if the Empire hadn't fallen, it should have.

Mayan Conglomerate

The Colonial Era in Mayan history was still beginning in the 950's, and this period saw further expansions within the Gulf of Mexico. Between 950 and 975, cities were built across the second half of the Island of Cubagano and the Mayan colonial population swelled as people immigrated there to serve their country and seek new thrills. By 986, there were about two million Mayans living in port cities on the island, and they were starting to dwarf the native population. At this time though, the novelty of colonialism in Cubagano was wearing off, and very few thrills were left to discover. Population growth stagnated, and within forty years the Mayan population would stabilize at around 4 million, same as the native population.

In 971, the first colonies began to be set up on other islands in the Gulf. These offered far more experiences to potential colonists, some being home to cannibal natives or primitive tool-less gatherers. Although government funding for colonies stopped in 975 CE, independent Mayan expeditions were being made almost every other week, and a good deal of Mayan media, mostly novels and poems, were devoted to stories of the exploits of these brave explorers. The Colonial Movement in literature was strong in this era of Mayan history, and went alongside the militarist movement that was only just beginning as well, one which focused on the prowess of the Conglomerate Standing Army and glorified battle.

Two major technological developments occurred over this period of time as well. The first was the two-barrel cannon, an improvement on the single-barrel design developed almost a century before. Invented in 956, the two-barrel design offered the twice the rate of fire, with no additional manpower being required. The major improvement was that the two-barrel cannon was more intimidating than its predecessor, inspiring both awe and fear in its victims. Within a few years it became a cultural icon for the Conglomerate, both signifying the state's power and signalling to native tribes the arrival of the Mayan army. Some colonists even brought these new cannons on their boats, receiving them through government permit.

Protanibolum pyrobola

Early Mayan grenade launcher

The second invention was one which revolutionized warfare from the start, and eventually led to the most significant development in military history. Known later to the Romans as a Protanibolum Pyrobola, the new device used the force of gunpowder to lob a grenade distances of up to 500 meters. Essentially it was an early grenade launcher, the first handheld firearm in history, and an even more terrifying weapon than the cannon.

Whilst the device was invented in 979, it wasn't until 984 that standardized grenade rounds were being manufactured and the military officially adopted the weapon. Over the course of the next ten years, all cannon regiments were outfitted with the new device, therefore allowing them to fight even while reloading the cannon. The great thing about the grenade launcher was that it was quick to reload and didn't require much accuracy, since fragmentation grenades had large kill radii. This allowed even an untrained cannoneer to wreak havoc on an enemy, even behind the safety of his walls. All of this was only a prelude to an even more awe-inspiring development, the invention of the gun.

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Also see Geopolitics

Index
Reign of Brutus:
1645 (892)-1704 (951)
Reign of Claudius II:
1704 (951)-1739 (986)
Pre-Schism Years:
1739 (986)-1765 (1012)

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