Children of the Fatherland: Strategos of Antioch

In the first session I fought the infidel over Aleppo, then tried to discourage the Byzantine Empire’s usual ongoing meltdown. (The ERE in CK, if not played by a human, is a byword for instability.) Finally I imposed elective law, which in CK makes it relatively easy to choose your heir from among your family – the one with the most titles inherits.

Extracts from the play Mikael of Antioch.

(Act I, scene i)

A palace in Antioch. Enter MIKAEL, Strategos of Antioch.

Mikael: I am a citizen of Rome,
and with some other titles
God has seen fit to grace me.
Strategos and Antypathos of the theme of Antioch,
guardian of the western March;
of Senatorial rank, heir to ancient honour.
Trifles all! God sees no title,
but measures the man to his cloak,
requiring much when much is given.
Much has been given me;
I must accomplish greatly.

Exits.

(Act II, scene ix)

A battlefield near Aleppo; enter MIKAEL, PHILIPPOS Count of Tortosa, and several COURTIERS and VASSALS.

Mikael: How goes the fight?
Philippos: God sends the right;
they yield on every front.

Enter a MESSENGER.

Messenger: Infidels, give guidance: I seek Mikael of Antioch.
Mikael: Seek no longer; you have found him.
Messenger: By the will of God are all things accomplished;
my master owns his sins are great,
and you the instrument of his punishment.
He would treat with you for peace.
Philippos, aside: He asks for peace as another
might haughtily demand tribute.
Mikael: I treat with no underling;
your master may come in person,
to give submission unto Rome.
Philippos, aside: Give submission to Antioch,
say just as well;
and yet why should not one city
be as good as another?
This warrants thought.
Messenger: What terms shall I carry?
Mikael: The Emir shall be safe
by my word, in his person;
but Aleppo, that was of old
under Roman rule,
shall return to the Eagles,
or his head shall answer.

Exit all.

(Act III, scene i)

A palace in Antioch. Enter Mikael, carrying a letter, and PHILIPPOS.

Philippos: My lord, what troubles you?
Mikael: My lord troubles me.
The Emperor Dukas has sent me this,
request and requirement,
charging me with all deliberate haste
to come to his aid.
Philippos: Does he not know
the infidel presses our border?
Mikael: The border is near, and Constantinople far;
the infidel is a distant threat.
The Emperor has closer foes:
Epirus and Nikea are risen against his rule.
Philippos: Treason never doth prosper;
for its foes are ever legion.
Mikael: What mean you? Speak plainly.
Philippos: My lord is a righteous man;
I would speak no evil in his presence.
Mikael: It is the duty of a vassal to give good counsel.
Philippos: It is the duty of a lord to give force to law.
Mikael: You shall have no harm from words;
my word upon it.
Philippos: The theme of Antioch
commands a multitude;
whoever it opposes, why,
that man is a traitor.
The Emperor is a craven
who hides behind his walls;
Rome prospers when brave men rule.
Mikael: Rome groans when two men rule.
Philippos: Even now three have taken the field;
‘twixt one and two is much ado,
twixt three and four, not much more.
A strong man is needed,
to end rebellion;
a man of proven valour,
crowned by victory on stricken fields
against the wily infidel.
Mikael: Nay! Speak no more.
I am a citizen of Rome;
duty, not glory, shall drive me.
The legion’s ordered line
shivers and yields
when men strive for recognition;
let each have his place,
and stand unshakeable in’t.
Muster my banners;
we march on Nikea.

Exit Mikael.

Philippos: A loyal Roman, even to his end.
No good awaits us at Nikea field.
Soft, Philippos, it’s not your fate
this year to serve an Emperor.
Perchance the next will see advancement.
God favours him that makes his own luck.

Exit.

(Act III, scene viii)

A field of battle near Trebizond. Enter MIKAEL, wounded; a CAPTAIN; and several COURTIERS and VASSALS.

Mikael: How goes the fight?
Captain: The Devil protects his own;
our right flank wavers, our centre yields.
We cannot hold.
Mikael: It shall not be said
that a battle was lost
while a Komnenus could yet take the field.
Plant my banner there,
where the blood flows thickest,
and I shall stand there til evening falls,
or fall, and lie for all evenings to come.
Captain: My lord, you are wounded;
let other men bear the brunt.
Mikael: Nay. I have given the order;
do Romans now disobey
when the enemy’s in sight?
Captain: We obey.

(Act III, scene xi)

The battlefield. MIKAEL lies stricken. Enter PHILIPPOS.

Philippos: My lord, is it well?
Mikael: It is very well;
I have done my duty.
Philippos: The day is ours.
Mikael: Then rest, Mikael;
your namesake awaits.
Philippos: What word shall I carry to Antioch?
Mikael: Tell them that Mikael died
as he lived: A citizen of Rome.
And bring the word to my vassals,
bidding them loyally await
my son’s majority;
my brother shall rule
until his sixteenth year.
Philippos (bows): I shall give them
your words exactly.
Mikael: Then nothing more
remains to do;
I rest. (Dies)
Philippos: Aye, exactly as will best
suit my purpose.
He would not be Emperor,
it is well;
his son shall have a Republic.

(Act III, scene xiii)

A palace in Antioch. Enter PHILIPPOS, IOHANNES brother of MIKAEL, and sundry COURTIERS and VASSALS.

Iohannes: It is passing strange.
Philippos: It was your brother’s will.
Iohannes: Oft he has said to me,
should I fall,
you must stand.
Philippos: And so you shall;
but it is not well
for one man to rule.
Thus when his end was nigh,
he called for his vassals
to give his sons consent
with their advice.
Iohannes: It was my brother’s wish;
he has served Rome well.
Let it be so.

Exit all but PHILIPPOS.

Philippos: They are all honourable men.
And yet it falls to me,
a liar born,
to give them power.
Shall Arkadios rule?
By what right?
His father’s blood was spilled
on a hundred fields;
who knows but it shall run thin,
and lose the name of glory.
Let the vassals confer,
let the best make names for themselves;
so it was in ancient times,
so it shall be again.
From the many, one;
the sticks break easy,
that together make
a strong fasces.
I could not serve an Emperor,
thus I punished a man:
His son shall not know
the laws he ruled by.
And yet I know not:
Does Philippos lie to punish his master,
or does he serve him where he lies?
An Emperor may be weak;
in a hundred vassals
there must be men of strength.
Perhaps, when all’s done,
they will say, of lying Philippos:
He, too, was a citizen of Rome.

Curtains

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