Alternate History

War of Five Empires (Hail Byzantium)

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Andronikos III was crowned emperor in 1379 at a time when the Byzantine empire split into smaller empires wrestling for control for the throne. Andronikos III was the second son of Nikephoras IV and was deemed more capable than his older brother John IV the "Nicene" due to his unpredictable violent nature. He was proclaimed heir by Nikephoras IV when Nikephoras was just about to die. This enraged Nikephoras' eldest son John IV and Andronikos had to flee for his life. The empire was split up into four parts with the fifth part revolting against byzantine rule, thus starting “The War of The Five Empires”.


Unofficial Theoretical Flag of Bulgarian Empire

The Bulgarian Empire under Ivan Shishman The Bulgarian Empire barely survived, many of the Bulgars were classified and identified as culturally Byzantine and many opposed Ivan's revolt against rule. As such Andronikos IV found it easier to capture Bulgaria and it fell 1384

Andronikos III ruled most of Greece, the tiniest slice of Western Anatolia, the Crimea and all of Southern Italy and Sicily. He had the numerical disadvantage. However, he took with him the navy as well as the Varangian guard. He also had the backing of the Papal States, the Holy Roman Empire and the English crown.

Andronikos' cousin Basil III "the Athenian" ruled over southern Greece from Athens. Basil intended to stay neutral although he seems to lean toward Andronikos due to John IV's violent encounters with Basil III.

John IV ruled the so called Byzantine empire not by right but by force. Although he technically ruled from Constantinople, being raised in Nicea, he resides mostly in Nicea. His violent rule has had profound effects on the populace, the royal court and foreign emissaries. He slaughter the Latins in 1381 is very ultra nationalistic in terms of his foreign policy. He is currently locked in a semi-cold war with his rival, Michael IX, bastard son of Nikephoras IV.

Ivan Shishman ruler of the breakaway second "Bulgarian" empire was intent on ruling a free Bulgarian empire. However by 1380, most of Bulgaria was cultural Byzantine rather than Bulgarian. It is currently buckling under the Nicene invasion. However in 1383, managed to destroy much of the Nicaean army in Thracia depriving it of any offensive push.

Alexios V rules the pitiful Empire of Cyprus. Uncle of Andronikos III decided to create his own maritime empire taking small chunks of land off the coast of Southern Anatolia and taking the important city of Antioch. It lies under threat of invasion from the crusader states and the Emirate of Aleppo.

Michael IX rules the empire of Trebizond. Bastard son of Nikephoras IV he sought to claim his own destiny by ruling the second empire of Trebizond. The empire of Trebizond, although particularly weak, won a major victory against the Ottomans seizing lands south as well as capturing much of the west coast of Georgia. This prevented any Muslim Caliphates from seizing lands under Byzantine successor states.

Variant flag of greece by steampoweredwolf-d7kgx9k

Flag of the Nicene Empire under John IV Under John IV his forces were initially successful but eventually lost support and died from dysentery during the siege of Sinope. Credits to SteamPoweredWolf on DeviantArt

Andronikos III's short death

Andronikos III sought an alliance with Basil III "The Athenian". Basil III had most of the Greek troops stationed in Thessaloniki giving Basil III the leverage he needed to negotiate. Although previously approached by John "The Nicene", John IV was rejected and Basil III allied himself with Andronikos III. As he marched to Thessaloniki, he suddenly became very ill and was unable to rule and Abdicated without notice.

Andronikos IV becomes emperor

In what seemed as the perfect chance that Basil III could proclaim himself emperor, he instead proclaimed that Andronikos III's son Andronikos IV would claim the throne. During this time, the empire of Trebizond seized lands from the Ottomans and the empire of Cyprus seized lands from the emirate of Aleppo. Andronikos IV rather than sitting idly like his uncle John IV, he proceeded reclaim land. Basil III and Andronikos IV moved the Varangian guard secretly and sailed the fleet to Bursa from Cherson and in 1384 managed to seize the Empire of Bulgaria and Ivan Shishman was killed by Greek fire in a last ditch attempt to hold on to the legacy of Bulgaria at the Siege of Varna. With Bulgaria secured, Basil III moved his army from Thessaloniki to Hadrianople at put it within striking distance of Constantinople. However, the walls of Constantinople were well defended and John IV was preparing to reinforce his depleted army in Thracia.

The siege of Constantinople

Andronikos IV's force prepare to strike Constantinople and reclaim the rest of the Byzantine empire. However, Constantinople wasn't an easy city to capture. Constantinople had survived the Hunnic hordes and the Arab invasion and it could survive for months. Another problem which faced Andronikos IV was that much of his naval power was fighting the empire of Cyprus, and most of his army under his cousin, Basil IV, who was Basil "the Athenian" son was fighting in Asia minor where they gaining significant amounts of land preventing trade from reaching the Nicene Empire. However, lucked turned his way when the Venetians under Antonio Venier, pledged his support in order to have trade rights. Andronikos IV's father and his grandfathers had pursued a policy towards the Venetians hoping to improve the relations with the Venetians that had been damaged by Konstantinos XI and Andronikos IV wasn't about to give decades of warm Venetian relations. With the firm support of the Venetians, they began to siege Constantinople.

Basil III's army sat outside the walls of Constantinople. Unknown to John IV, Andronikos IV and Antonio Venier had loaded Venetian galleys with Venetian mercenaries and the Varangian Guard. Most of the trade routes towards Constantinople were blocked by Byzantine Galleys armed with Greek Fire. Breaking the blockade would be suicide. Andronikos planned to lead a small detachment of Basil IV's soldiers to blockade on the other side of the strait of Bosporus. John IV was unable to reinforce Thracia and this allowed the Venetian mercenaries and the Varangian guard to sneak into the port at night. The next day John IV woke to the sound of fighting. The Varangian Guard had massacred the entire garrison and Basil "the Athenian" had his troops pour into the city. John IV barely escaped with his life and retreated to Sinope. Much of the siege's success was credited to both Andronikos IV and Basil III, Basil III managed to slip past many of John IV main army in Thracia (Although much of his army was barely able to conduct offensive movements so it lacked the necessary numbers although still posed a relative threat). It cut off a majority of the forces stationed in Thracia and many just fled and returned to their homes.

Simultaneously, Basil IV seized much of Asia minor as well as Alexios V seizing all of the southern coast of Anatolia preventing trade for the Nicene empire. John IV, however, in the east managed to cut of a majority of Michael IX's force at Caesarea. But by 1400, John IV was trapped in Sinope and finally killed in 1395 during an assault from Varangian guard.

The Nicene downfall

The fall of Constantinople came as a shock to John IV. However, that didn't stop him to recapture Constantinople. On January the 6th 1389 John IV brought all his forces from the east to face Andronikos IV and his army. At Nicea, Basil "The Athenian" rode out with the majority of the forces. However, this would be the last time he would ride out. Andronikos and Basil IV bypassed John's army to threatened Ancyra. Andronikos went with a small detachment force outflank John's reserve and destroy the baggage train. With hearing this John IV ignored his generals warnings and proceeded with the attacks regardless of the near annihilation of his reserve force. Basil "The Athenian" moved his Infantry of his Vanguard to advance on John's army. However, John's vanguard of cavalry completely annihilated the vanguard leaving only 7500 men remaining in Basil's army. Luck turned for the better even as Andronikos’ combined army now numbering 15,000 men was no match for John's army now at 25,000 men due to the destruction of his reserve. However, unbeknownst to John, Andronikos IV's 2500 men that had massacred the reserve of John's force mainly comprised of heavy cavalry and infantry were hiding in the hills.The attack would of seemed suicide but Andronikos being the military genius he is, used the weather to his advantage. He left the a small contingent of his force on the hills, using the fog and loud noises making it seem like Andronikos’' army was more large in number and drew out a majority of John's heavy infantry, much to the dismay of John's generals dismay. with the heavy infantry gone Andronikos IV and Basil "The Athenian" annihilated the rest of John's now weakened army. Hearing that Basil IV now named "The Deceiver" was laying siege to his capital, he moved his heavy infantry and the remainder of his army away back to Ancyra. However, again John IV was tricked once again as Basil IV slipped away leaving local levies besieging the castle. Basil "The deceiver" then used Venetian Infantry which that had been stationed in Hercleia and move them to face John's army numbering a more reasonable amount of 17,500, which the Venetians used their rearguard to harass John's army while the Venetians found a more reasonable place to make a stand. However, John's rearguard surprised the Venetians. Facing near death, Antonio Venier requested immediate assistance from the Byzantines. However, the Byzantines already had a plan, Basil III and Andronikos marched their remaining army numbering 10,000 went to join Antonio while Basil IV split up his army numbering 5000 and annihilated their cavalry and scouts giving John's army no intelligence at all. While the main byzantine army fought, the Venetians outflanked John's army, and Basil "The Deceiver" converged his army and attacked from the rear of John's army facing near annihilation, John and 2000 troops managed to escape with the rest of his army being massacred. The battle ended in an astounding victory however, Basil III, "The Athenian" was slain however, by holding up John IV, "The Nicean", it allowed his son to annihilate the rest

Storming Antioch and the end of Trebizond

With the destruction of most of the Nicene army, John IV retreated to Sinope with Andronikos IV hot on his trail. However, Basil IV beat him to it and had to retreat. John IV had only 5000 troops left, barely enough to face a combined now 30,000 Byzantine Venetian army. Andronikos and his most trusted general Demetrios went to take the Anatolian south coast from Alexios V. Alexios V had initial success in 1379 capturing the coast of Southern Anatolia and gaining from support from the lords of Antioch and the Doux (duke) of Antioch. During the relatively neutral period, The Empire of Cyprus, grew from maritime trade filling the vacuum during the succession crisis. However, with the success of Andronikos IV and the re opening of trade to Venice and Genoa and with the new alliance with the Venetians, more trade opened up for the Venetians which in turn threatened trade for the Empire of Cyprus. Soon in 1387, Cyprus began to openly challenge Andronikos IV. However, Andronikos lacked the necessary resources to combat Alexios and Basil IV could only send small detachments from his army and only managed to capture the smaller islands near Rhodes. However, Basil IV managed to capture Rhodes in 1388 after the capturing the surrounding coast owned by Alexios.  With Andronikos successfully defeating the Nicene empire, he could focus on taking Cyprus. After the siege of Sinope, Andronikos IV had successfully taken most of territorial Cyprus territory leaving only Cyprus and Antioch. With the capture of Seleukia, the Cyprus navy could no longer mount attacks on Byzantine shipping. With the might of Cyprus gone, Andronikos IV successfully stormed Antioch while Demetrios took Cyprus. With the elimination of Cyprus, all that was left was the Second Trebizond Empire.    

During the fall of the Nicene empire, Trebizond seized as much territory as possible before Andronikos could strike against them. During the war with Nicea, much of Trebizond's manpower was destroyed by John IV "The Nicene" during the fall of Caesarea and lacked the manpower to go to war with Andronikos. However, Trebizond still posed a major threat to the Byzantine throne. Michael IX was the bastard son of John III and uncle to Andronikos IV. He was still a threat to the throne and was still eligible for the throne. Andronikos, "the conqueror" as he was called decided to strike first. He sent Basil IV to capture Koloneia while he took the bulk of his army to crush the 15,000 strong Trebizond. Andronikos knew that Michael IX would try to outwit him so he sent a detachment force of 10,000 men to ambush his forces and harass them. While the bulk of his forces numbering 20,000 prepared to divert Michael's army. Andronikos knew that Sebastea was weak but also was a perfect city to pivot towards Trebizond held Mesopotamia. As his forces moved to the city, he was ambushed by Michael's full strength which had received 3000 hired mercenaries. Demetrios was nowhere to be seen and it was assumed that he died in the encounter against Michael. All seemed lost but Michael had received word that Koloneia had been captured by Basil IV putting him within striking distance of Trebizond. Michael successfully  

Trebizond flag

The Trebizond (2nd) Empire under Michael IX "The Bastard" Michael IX had more success than John IV and Alexios V and captured Georgian Khazaria and some of Ottoman held territory. However, it couldn't find any allies or trade partners and after the fall of the Nicene Empire, Trebizond failed and collapsed from internal strife, bankruptcy and invasion from Andronikos IV. Credits to Rarayn on DeviantArt

Withdrew his army to Trebizond, and prepared to retake Koloneia. However, when he arrived, Basil "The deceiver" Unsurprisingly was nowhere to be seen. He moved his army out of the city leaving a new garrison behind before setting out. But this time Andronikos left the bulk of his army with Basil IV making his forces number to 25,000 while he took 10,000 men to capture Koloneia and then Trebizond. Basil successfully destroyed Michael's now 18,000 strong army and only 1000 of his riders managed to make to Trebizond. One year later in 1409 he surrendered and was executed for treason. The last holdout of Michael IX's men in Samosata managed to last until 1410 when the city was stormed and sacked as with that ended the last great dynastic struggle for the Byzantine Empire.


Basileus Basil IV became emperor in 1419, began reconstruction of most of the empire as well as consolidating power within Anatolia. With the kingdom of Georgia almost destroyed, Konstantine I, brother-in-law to Basil IV, swore fealty to the Byzantine empire in return he would become Despotes of Georgia. Much of Georgia had been conquered by Michael IX, destroying the relations between Georgia and the Byzantines. Although Andronikos IV offered his daughter in marriage to the Konstantine I, it did little to mend relations. Constantine I, with most of his kingdom on the brink of collapse and facing possible invasion from hostile tribes in the north, swore fealty to Basil IV in 1421.


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