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Principia Moderni III
Roman and Jewish forces in the Battle of Nazareth.
| Roman Empire|| Damascan Sultanate
|Commanders and leaders|
| Andrew II|| Sulimen VII
| 350,000 ||400,000|
The Roman-Damascan War, sometimes called the Roman-Sahtarakkid War, was a major conflict in the Middle East and North Africa from 1808 to 1810. The Middle East had been divided for centuries between the Roman Empire and the Damascan Sultanate since the fall of the Ottomans, and it was only a matter of time until the two powers struggled for dominance. After a series of close wars that soon brought all of the Middle East into either one camp or the other, a clash between the two was certain.
The war had major effects for the Middle East and the Roman Empire. For the Romans, the Empire had expanded back to its eastern border lost since the time of Heraclius and early Islam and had reached the height of its strength in many centuries. The Empire would remain unchallenged until the Italian Civil War nearly sixty years later.
For the Arabs and Islam in particular, the war ended the period of unchallenged Damascan eminence and the effective end of the United Islamic Nations. It would be years before the Islamic world rebounded and created powerful rivals to Christian Europe in the form of the Hashemite Caliphate and the Bengal Sultanate.
During the War of the Three Brothers, Emperor Andrew II promised to the Zevi Dynasty to reclaim Jerusalem and the area of Palestine from the Damascans. The Zevi Dynasty and their Jewish supporters had supported Andrew II in the war as a result, and upon their victory pressured Andrew II to fulfill his promise. Andrew II also hoped that the war against Damascus would end a prominent Arab-Turkish threat to his eastern border as well as reconquer much of the territory lost to the Muslims since the days of Heraclius.
In preparation for the war, Andrew II paid a surprise visit to his friend James V of Armenia, who had also aided him in his revolution. The bonds between the Roman Empire and Armenia were warm, with Armenia happy with its newfound independence and the Roman Empire happy that it was a prosperous and peaceful state. James V happily agreed to aid Andrew II in his new war as well, on the condition that most of western Armenia be ceded to him upon victory. Andrew II also asked his brother and former opponent Andronikos VI if he would like a senior military command in Egypt, and Andronikos VI accepted.
Beginning of the War
The war began in 1808 with Roman artillery shelling Damascan positions in Cairo. Roman and Egyptian forces under the command of Andronikos VI soon surrounded the city while another army traveled north to block any potential counterattack from the Sinai. Roman armies also invaded Anatolia and began to siege Iconium and Caesaria while Zevite loyalists began conducting skirmishing operations around Roman Phoenicia.
The city of Cairo was the only major Muslim community left in Egypt and the only Damascan province in Africa. As such, Andronikos VI expected the city to put up stern resistance both before and after the siege. The battle went on for weeks with major shelling before the Romans finally had a breakthrough and could force their way into the city. Roman and Egyptian forces fought their way through the streets in a bloody battle until they raised the flag of the Roman Empire over the citadel of Saladin. While some Egyptians in the army wanted to raze the city and murder many of its Muslim inhabitants, Andronikos VI's reputation and command prevented them from committing such a crime. The city remained mostly peaceful, although tense, for the rest of the war.
Within the first few weeks the Roman Navy was able to destroy or scatter much of the Damascan Navy in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, effectively ending any possible disruption of Roman trade or troop transport. Sulimen VII pleaded for the Mansurriyya Sultanate for naval support following the defeat of his navy, but Mansurriyyan naval support wouldn't materialize until late in the war. Until then, Mansurriyya supplied Damascus with supplies and weapons and also appealed to the rest of the Islamic world to come to Damascus' defense, to no avail.
Armenia enters the War
In the north, Roman forces continued to siege the cities of Iconium and Caesaria, the major Damascan cities in Anatolia and the last bastions of Anatolian Turks and Damascan military power in central Anatolia. Roman military efforts were led by Greek general John Vatatzes, who managed to crush Iconium swiftly through cannon fire and elite grenadiers. The city of Caesaria was harder to storm, but at considerable cost Roman forces were able to capture the city.
With these two cities under Roman control, Vatatzes moved south towards the region of Cilicia. Armenia had joined the war at this point and had sent an army under General Poghos Sahak Nazaretian towards Cilicia as well, which was home to a considerable Armenian minority. Nazaretian's mission was to cut Damascan Anatolia off from the Levant, unaware of previous Roman success, and to use local popular support in Cilicia to establish a base of operations and march on Antioch, the gateway to the Sultanate's capital region of Syria.
However, the elite Roman army was faster than he expected, and Nazaretian and Vatatzes met up on the outskirts of Antioch. Antioch was a major Damascan city, home to Muslim and Christian Arabs, Turks, Greeks, and Armenians. Roman hopes that locals loyal to the Patriarch of Antioch would sabotage the defenses and open the gates were unfounded, and the allied forces resigned themselves to a long siege.
In the south, Roman forces were much more successful following the fall of Cairo. Andrew II sailed to Phoenicia with reinforcements and marched on Jerusalem, taking Acre and Jaffa in quick succession while Andronikos VI marched north. The two armies linked up and surrounded Jerusalem, which had been reinforced with forces from Damascus. Like with Damascus, the Roman forces hoped that local Christians would open the way for them, but they were again unsuccessful, rendering such a tactic obsolete.
Roman forces were concerned about any attempts of the Damascans relieving the city by using reinforcements from Syria or the Hejaz, and the Jewish forces were used to help scout out the area and alert the armies about any incoming armies. Roman forces were able to take the city after several months of cannon fire and bloody casualties. Roman and Jewish forces were then able to repel a counterattack from Syria.
The capturing of Jerusalem marked a major moment in the Roman consciousness, as this was the second time Roman forces had occupied the city and the first time they had taken the city from the Arabs. Andrew II and Andronikos VI marched down the city side by side and visited most of the holy sites of the city, proclaiming that all of them would be protected. A week later, Andrew II moved north towards Syria while Andronikos VI moved south along the coast to potentially threaten the cities of Medina and Mecca.
The main battle of the Syrian Campaign was the siege of Antioch, which was the most obvious obstacle to any potential incursion into the heart of the Sultanate. However, Antioch had been rebuilt as a major fortress and population center and many military experts in Europe predicted the city couldn't be taken.
Roman and Armenian forces surrounded the city as matter of course, and then tried to tackle the immense problem of the city's defenses. Support from the inside seemed to not be an option and Damascan counterattacks from Mesopotamia or Kurdistan were a possibility. Roman cannon fire was relatively ineffective at finding a weakness in the defenses and the Damascans had considerable supplies of food and water.
Nazaretian and Vatatzes were at a loss of how to take the city, although they knew that they needed to take the city if they were going to storm the Damascan heartland and end the war. The two decided that the best case for taking the city would be to storm the city under the cover of night with advanced troops leading the charge.
At night Roman forces under the cover of darkness rushed the walls of the city with ladders. Roman grenadiers, flamethrowers, and Armenian Royal Guardsmen stormed the walls. They were able to take the walls and gatehouse with heavy casualties but had opened the way for the rest of the army to take the city. Despite this, the rest of the Damascan garrison put of stern resistance, and under the orders of their leader Ibrahim Pasha they fought to the last man. Ibrahim Pasha later died with the remainder of his troops when the Romans and Armenians stormed his provincial palace, ending the siege of four months.
With Antioch under Roman control, Vatatzes was free to march further south and take the cities of Latakia, Hama, and Aleppo, occupying much of the Syrian heartland and depriving the Sultanate of much of its population and resources and begin threatening the capital from the north as Andrew II marched from the south. Nazaretian moved west, blocking any counters from Mesopotamia as well as seeking to cut under the Damascans in Kurdistan and rile up Christian Assyrians to join the fight.
Fall of Damascus
Roman forces soon marched on the capital of Damascus from both north and south, while reinforcements moved in from Phoencia in the west. Damascus faced the very real threat of being surrounded on three sides and being stormed by Roman forces. Fearing for his life, Sulimen VII and his court abandoned the city and fled to the Hejaz and Yemen, where he hoped to gather more forces to his cause.
When the Roman armies had reached Damascus, they had expected a long and difficult siege but were pleasantly surprised. Many had fled the city following the Sultan and the fear that the Romans would slaughter the Muslims and destroy the city upon their arrival. What few defenders remained were soon defeated after weeks of cannon fire and bombardment. Contrary to many concerns the Roman entry to the city was not overly violent and few civilians were harmed in the aftermath of the siege.
Andrew II and his army marched through the ancient city, visiting all of the important sites before resting in the Palace of the Sahtarakkids in central Damascus. While visiting the sites of the city, Andrew II visited the tomb of Saladin and supposedly said boastfully "Not even their greatest can stand before me."
Expedition into the Hejaz
While Andrew II was boasting of his victory and sleeping in the Palace of the Sahtarakkids, his brother Andronikos VI was still marching down the coast of the Arabian desert towards the city of Medina. A Damascan army sent to stop him was defeated at Duba and again near Yanbu, and the Hejaz was practically open to attacks by the Roman army.
Faced with the threat of the two sacred cities falling captive to the Romans and with Jerusalem already lost, the Mansurriyyan Sultanate finally broke their hold on aiding the Damascans in their plight. While not going so far as to declare war on the Romans, the Mansurriyyans did dispatch their highest ranking admiral, Vekili Mehmed Bey, and his fleet to help gathering what remained of the Damascan fleet as he went.
Mehmed Bey sailed straight past the Roman island of Socotra and into the Red Sea, aiming to take out the Roman fleet and occupy the strategic port of Berenice, thereby ending potential Roman naval activity in the area. Without naval resupply Andronikos VI and his army would be at the mercy of the desert and remaining Damascan forces.
Roman admiral Thomas Angelos ordered all of his fleet not running supply operations to sail out of Berenice to block Mehmed Bey's advance. The two fleets met off the coast of the Hejaz and proceeded to battle it out for control of the Red Sea. Mehmed Bey had more ships, with many of his lesser ships being galleys and sloops, while Angelos's ships were advanced ships of the line. Mehmed Bey tried to use the greater maneuverability to his advantage, but Angelos' ships were too strong for the majority of Mehmed Bey's ships to destroy. The battle then devolved into boarding action and cannonades, which resulted in a Roman victory. Mehmed Bey and his remaining forces withdrew soon after it became apparent the Romans had mastery of the water.
Despite this victory, Andronikos VI never took Medina. Only a few miles from the city, Andronikos VI received a message from his brother that Damascus had fallen and the war was essentially over. Andronikos VI decided to turn back rather than risk escalating the conflict by sacking the holy city.
Middle Eastern Power
The fall of the Sahtarakkids drastically changed the power structure of the Middle East and amongst the Arab tribes. Sulimen VII and his loyalists fled to Mecca in hopes of building up support to regain his throne, but his prestige had been irreparably damaged both home and abroad. Within a year, what little power Sulimen VII had in the remains of his Empire had vanished. In the Hejaz the Hashemites rose up, declaring a new Islamic Caliphate and that the Sahtarakkids were unfit to remain in power. Within four years, the Hashemites had taken over Yemen and the Hejaz and forced the Mansurriyyan Sultanate under their heel.
Other areas in the Middle East changed as well. The Azerbaijan Sultanate pushed south, taking the city of Tabriz, while the Persians and Kurds threw off their Arab rulers and established the Zand Dynasty, which would rule for the next thirty years. The Assyrians would also manage to establish their own state centered around Mosul and other lesser cities in the area.
Expulsion of the Turks
When the Roman Empire conquered the rest of Anatolia and the cities of Iconium and Caesaria, they resolved to remove the remaining Anatolian Turkish inhabitants just like they had done in other areas of the region. However, Andrew II wanted to expedite the process and open the two cities to Greek settlement, offering a firm barrier to potential aggression in the Anatolian heartland. Within ten years, most of the remaining Turkish population had been deported to the Tartary or had died in the process.
The war had considerable effect on the study of Egypt and understanding of Ancient Egyptian culture as a whole. Roman troops accidentally discovered the Rosetta Stone while in Egypt, and the Stone enabled western linguists and historians to decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs within thirty years.