Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Byzantiad - New Troubles for the Empire

"The traitorous George Kantankeros having slipped from the Emperor's clutches across the border to Benevento, in the land of the Lombards, he attempted to induce by empty promises of gifts and honours the help of Lombard prince to restore him to his usurped despotate. As Kantankeros arrrived almost alone, and with nothing but the clothes he wore and the horse he rode, his promises meant little to the barbarian monarch. Whilst the Emperor remained a short while in Apulia settling affairs and appointing a new governor, the Lombards were disinclined to try his metal. Instead, Prince Liutprand, surnamed 'the Lucky', sent a small embassy with gifts of his own and dulcet expressions of friendship. The embassy also offered to hand over Kantankeros, in chains or otherwise. Reading the straws in the wind, the former governor took advantage of the loose constraints under which he had been placed (don't leave town) and quietly quitted Lombardia, returning to Campania. There he began his campaign to bring himself back into power."

Michael Psellophanes, Byzantiad.

The Empire having negotiated successfully hazards and crises of April, 1001, a further series of perils and dangers emerged from without and within. Although the Italian provinces were not wholly pacified, the Emperor found himself with another revolt to deal with; yet another sought to to sever itself from the Imperium, and, worse, the Empire found itself in a state of open war on its eastern frontier.  I thought I would begin this posting with a part of Psellophanes's narrative, and then show how these matters come to pass by a series of dice rolls.  For the first such series, I refer you to this posting:
The Narrative Begins 

Each 'barbarian' had rolled a die to indicate their attitude towards the Empire, from 1 very friendly, to 6 openly hostile. These scores could be adjusted up and down periodically, to determine whether these attitudes had changed. A score of 0 or less indicated an ally, or at least a people cooperatively friendly; 7 or more meant open war, and not just pin-pricking raids. These new rolls were applied as follows:
D6 = 1 or 2, adjust score (hostility level) down 1
D6 = 3 or 4, no change in attitude
D6 = 5 or 6, hostility level increases by 1.

Here were the results:

Xenographical Affairs:

1.  Lombards - 4.  Rolled a 1: Hostility level 4-1 = 3.  Hence the above narrative.  Kantankeros fails to get any sympathy or support from Prince Liutprand the Lucky.
2.  Bulgars - 2. Rolled a 4: Hostility level unchanged.  Still on good terms with Empire.
3.  Pechenegs - 6.  Rolled a 1.  Hostility level 6-1 = 5.  Still on frosty terms with Empire, but, possibly chastened by recent events, staying at home for now
4.  Rus - 1. Rolled a 2: Hostility Level 1-1 = 0. Willing to go into bat for the Empire against a hostile foe. We'll certainly come back to this!
5.  Abasgian - 2.  Rolled a 5: Hostility Level 2+1 = 3.  Relations with Empire still amicable 
6.  Armenians - 4.  Rolled a 6: Hostility Level 4+1 = 5 Relations becoming strained...
7. Seljuks - 2. Rolled a 5: Hostility Level 2+1 = 3 Still on good terms with Empire
8. Fatimids - 6. Rolled a 6! Hostility Level = 6+1 = 7. A state of war now exists between the Fatimid Caliphate and the Empire.  There are two possibilities: the Caliphate has declared war or, possibly more likely, the Empire has made the declaration in reprisal for the recent raid.  If the latter, this will involve the Great Domestic of the Schools leading the invasion with his army on Nicaea.

The same system is use to test the loyalty of the Imperial provinces and their Governors.

Provincial Affairs:

1. Brindisi - A new roll, the rebellion having been defeated. Rolled a 5.  Not good.  Perhaps Kantankeros commanded some local popularity and support; the province remains disaffected, but not in open revolt. It seems that having escaped the Emperor's wrath, he has returned to stir up a new revolt. The Emperor hopes his new governor, Romanos Dioikysos, can assert and maintain control.  He has another revolt to deal with.
2. Mystras - 5. Rolled a 6.  Of course it did. Disloyalty Level 5+1 = 6.  Open revolt.  With the Emperor just on the other side of the Ionian Sea, forsooth!   This will be another campaign to subdue a rebellious province.
3. Thessaloniki - 4.  Rolled a 2.  Disloyalty Level 4-1 = 3 Loyal. No worries there. 
4. Nicaea - 1.  Rolled a 3.  Attitude unchanged: still staunch.
Cherson - 5.  Rolled a 6.  Damn.  Disloyalty Level 5+1 = 6.  Open revolt; declaration of independence.  A real nuisance!
6. Koloneia - 1.  Rolled a 5.  Disloyalty Level 1+1 = 2.  Nothing to worry about there.

7. Seleucia - 5.  Rolled a 4.  Disloyalty Level unchanged at 5.  Still disaffected, but have external problems to cope with.

8. Constantinople - New Roll: a 3.  Population tranquil.  

There you have it: Mystras and Cherson getting bolshy and the Fatimid Caliphate at daggers drawn.  

"During the course of events throughout April, the Emperor despatched an embassy to the Prince of Kiev. The Ambassador, Oleaginos Elaios, received instructions to offer the prince certain treasures and honours, that he might strike a blow towards the Patzinaks.'The Patzinak piles insolence upon infamy, rapacity upon robbery, arson upon arrogance,' quoth the Ambassador. 

Eager to remain on good terms with the Empire - Blatoslav had, for dynastic and other reasons, eyes for the Emperor's porphyrogenite sister - the Kievan Prince was only too eager to fall in with the embassy's suggestions. Right soon, he gathered a host, and with it set off at the end of the first week of May, down the Dniepr River, and thence into the Patzinak steppe.

Greeks bearing gifts

Leaving his newly appointed governor, Romanos Dioikysos, with a sufficient cadre upon which to build his local thematic garrison, the emperor betook his Imperial army back across the Ionian Sea unto the Pelopponese, where awaited him yet another revolt requiring his attention. Landing at Patras, he marched towards Corinth. Shortly before reaching that city, he found the Army of Mystras astride the road and barring the way...."
Michael Psellophanes, Byzantiad

I will take up Psellophanes's narrative of the Fatimid War another time. The alert reader might observe that there has been no response (yet) to the insurrection at Cherson - a very dangerous situation, especially should its governor get extra ambitious...

To be continued...


  1. Two revolts at the same time, one will have to be left to fester, and meanwhile in the east a provincial governor will have to deal with the Fatimids...

    1. There are two ways of dealing with all three crises at once. One involved calling upon the Rus to deal with the Cherson uprising. That seemed a little unlikely without an Imperial presence. The other is to send the Domestic of the Schools. That might yet happen.

      But whilst the rebellious governor is still consolidating his power, he can be left for the time being. If he tries for the Imperial purple, he'll have to be dealt with. But he might yet be overthrown by some loyalist (a roll of 1 or 2 on the 'xenographical' die). So, what will the Domestic of the Schools be doing, then?

      So much intrigue can a single die roll generate!

  2. Hello Archduke,

    Lovely stuff old chap and I really like the illustrations - they add to the all important flavour of these momentous hysterical, I mean historical, events….

    Never trust a Pecheneg is all I can say!

    All the best,


    1. I’d also suggest “don’t underestimate a Pecheneg” too.

    2. Anna Comnena allowed that the Patzinaks could not be trusted to honour their agreements, and they were a real nuisance during Alexius's time, until he finally squashed them in 1091. However, I gather that the Byzantines regarded the Pechenegs as proverbially stupid...


  3. I see the dice gods have “dun good” Ion and the results - your xenographical & provincial narrative explanation/reasoning - makes sense. Your campaign does have a very real, historical feel about it. Well done.

    The Emperor presently seems to be very much in the role of “fireman” as he has to quash the flames of war and extinguish various revolts.
    The coming weeks and months (and years?) look likely to be very busy…
    I’m pretty sure you and your blog readers are all rather happy about that 😀



    1. Geoff -
      Yes, the 'fireman' analogy is apt, but the great Domestic of the Schools is another such. At the moment I'm tossing up whether he goes off to settle accounts with the governor of the Chersonese, or hies off to Seleucia to help deal to the Fatimids. But, strictly speaking, he's not needed there unless and until the local army is defeated OR we have two campaigns at once: one defending the Empire, the other attacking the Caliphate.


  4. Thanks for revisiting the hostility rating system - clarified my understand

    1. Andrew -
      No worries. I wish I had called it a 'cordiality rating' and reversed the numbers, but I'll continue with what I began with. The meaning is the same.

  5. Love it, Ion.

    'porphyrogenite' is my new word of the week! :-)

    Regards, Chris.

    1. Chris -
      Though the thing was traditional, being 'born in the purple' (a particular room) gave legitimacy and entitlement, to an Emnperor's reign really only Constantine VII made a thing about attaching it to his name. That was because of the Lacapeni family (Dad and two sons) usurped the throne, but kept Constantine on as Fourth (and junior) Emperor, forcing him to marry the daughter (Helena Lekapena).

      This went all sideways when the two lads decided they could do without Dad, and forced him into a monastery on some desolated island in the Sea of Marmora. Then they bethought themselves that Constantine was a bit of an incumbrance. Sis, who seems to have considered herself more bound by the ties of marriage than the ties of blood, somehow got wind of this, and warned hubby what was afoot. The two aspiring lads were met by their Dad on the jetty of the island to which they had consigned him, and welcomed into the worshipful flock.

      Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus had lived under the shadow of the Lekapene usurpers for 25 years, but reigned in his own right for the next 14. (There was also a certain questionmark over his legitimacy, being strictly speaking born out of wedlock). You can see, then, that he'd want to emphasise the porphyrogenisus thing.

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