The Komneniad: Final Overview

So, here is the map after the peace treaty ending the African War, which in spite of the name was fought mainly in Europe:

1944 final overview

Observe the Khanate finally reaching not only the Urals, last seen around 1550 before the century-long retreat from the Russian wars, but the very Atlantic, in the shape of Arkhangelsk. Not an ice-free port, alas, but very satisfying. And, deeply symbolic if not very militarily or economically important, regaining the City of Men’s Desire! There will be held a Triumph, the first since well before Alexandros renounced the title of Autokrator. It remains to be seen whether Konstantin will emulate Cincinnatus, and lay down the title of Diktator with victory; or will instead choose to follow the example of Augustus, and take the purple. After all, when Alexandros, leading the Long March through Georgia and the steppes, refused to be addressed as other than ‘Strategos’, he said that none should again bear the title ‘Autokrator’ until the Eagles returned to Constantinople. And the Eagle, indeed, flies within the Antonine Walls, and the Hagia Sophia is again an Orthodox shrine – if, admittedly, of a rite shot through with Buddhist thought, and foreign even to the few Orthodox who remain after six centuries of Catholic rule. So, should Konstantin wish it, there may again be an Emperor in Rome – although not in Constantinople; the seat of government, obviously, will have to remain in New Byzantium. But, at any rate, there will be a Triumph; and impassive nomad tribesmen on scrubby little ponies will ride through the streets of the City, the plumes of Legionary helmets nodding under their lanceheads while golden Eagles festooned with horsetail banners scream triumph from overhead.

And what of the other barbarian tribes? Germany, obviously, bestrides Europe like a colossus, outright annexing the industrial heartland of Russia and stretching east to meet its ally the Khanate. Croatia is recreated as a vassal state, chiefly so the German people won’t have to spend blood and treasure garrisoning the Balkans; no doubt the government at Split knows when to jump, though. Russia, in view of its last-minute change of allegiance, has some of its territory returned but is essentially a rump state, existing for similar reasons as Croatia: To avoid having to garrison a mountainous and unproductive area. It is, however, more genuinely independent, since its government survived more or less intact. It also retains some land that in 1936 was within Croatia’s borders, a deliberate policy to create hostility between the two minor states. Scandinavia is split into three German vassals, and I took the opportunity to prettify the borders a bit.

If Germany is the big winner in territory, Ethiopia is the big loser. Its Oceanian empire is handed over to California, and the Middle East is split off and partitioned into vassal states of the victors, mainly of Catalunya. I envision some sort of “percentages-of-influence” agreement, with the southern state being 90% Catalunya, 10% Germany, the middle one 75% Catalunya, 25% Germany, and the one in Anatolia 50/30/20 to Catalunya, Germany, and the Khanate – the last in view of the ethnic connection. (In this timeline, Anatolia is still largely Greek in ethnicity, although converted to Islam.) How long these neat percentages can be maintained in the face of foreign-policy shifts, local demands for autonomy, economic development, and the geographic reality that Germany and Ethiopia are just plain closer than Catalunya and the Khanate – that’s another question.

The new borders here are as arbitrary as those in OTL, and will likely cause as much trouble down the line. One of these states will no doubt be called Persia, probably the middle one; it is, of course, a shambling, blasphemous mockery of the majesty of the Peacock Throne, raised to an unholy semblance of real statehood by the arbitrary fiat of the Great Powers. If this is not necromancy, words on paper bringing back to unlife what was safely dead, then I do not know what is. A fitting fate for barbarians who invade the sacred soil of Rome!

The African powers are shorn of much overseas territory; they are required to disarm; they are not permitted to develop nuclear weaponry or missiles (and good luck to the inspectorate required to enforce this edict throughout Africa!); and Catalunyan naval bases surround their shores. But they are not utterly crushed, as was Germany in our timeline; only a small part of their territory was invaded, their cities were not bombed to rubble, and their governments and institutions continue intact. The decisive test of strength that was the African War has, no doubt, convinced them to curtail their imperial ambitions, at least for the remainder of the century; but they remain powerful nations who will, no doubt, immediately begin to jockey for influence in the new minor states and in the victorious alliance.

Punjab, in spite of being bled near to the bone by the demands of the Himalayan war (its manpower is down in the low hundreds in the final save), has come out of the war much enlarged in territory if not wealth. To remain a significant player, they will have to educate and organise the vast masses of India, still Hindu and therefore pagans in Moslem eyes even after centuries of Ethiopian rule, without giving them ambitions of independence. This, it seems to me, will be a very difficult task – especially with the Khanate, thwarted in its ambition to outright conquer India, stirring the pot. The Punjabi hillmen are attempting to rule a subcontinent twice the size and five times the population of their core Central-Asian territory, in addition to holding down recently-conquered and restive Iran – a mountain territory whose guerrillas have resisted foreign rulers since Alexander. (The pre-Christian one, that is, not Alexandros of the Long March!) Although it looks impressive on the map, I feel this Punjab is an artifical construct, which may well split into its constituent parts when it is no longer upheld by African bayonets.

The Khanate, of course, does face a somewhat similar problem in China. However, the Han are not given to disputing the Mandate of Heaven as demonstrated by success in overthrowing a previous dynasty; and moreover they are not so distanced from their overlords by religion. For Moslem to rule Hindu is likely disaster for both parties; but the Komnenoi flavour of Christianity has absorbed much Buddhism and other Eastern thought over the centuries, and many at the highest levels in New Byzantium can quote the Analects with the best. Further, the Komnenoi have ruled a polyglot empire of hundreds of tribes and peoples for many centuries, and have evolved institutions for the task; the Punjabi have, in the same period, been an ethnically and religiously homogenous state whose main difficulty has been in maintaining its territorial integrity, not in uniting disparate peoples.

All four of the victorious Powers will rapidly acquire nuclear weapons, the Khanate probably last among them; we will presumably collaborate to keep the beaten states and our new vassals from getting them, although enforcing such an edict will, as noted, be extremely difficult. However, in other interests we are somewhat disparate, as we’ve already seen in the dispute over the fate of India, which the Khanate wished to annex. (Lesser allies propose, Great Powers dispose!) The era of armies of millions of conscripts is, however, pretty much over; so we will have to turn to other means of competition. Here I feel that Communist Germany is at a disadvantage. Building an industrial infrastructure for coal and steel is one thing; the economy of silicon and service, something else again. The laissez-faire tradition of the Khanate, coupled with the industriousness of its millions of Chinese subjects and the enormous mineral riches of Siberia, will likely propel it to the fore economically. Catalunya, with the immense wealth of one and a half American continents (plus cheap Middle Eastern oil), is also likely to do well. By 1980 I would not be surprised to see Germany, while still militarily powerful, as an economic backwater with a creaking gerontocratic power structure, much as happened to the USSR in our timeline. I would also expect a free India and perhaps Iran, allied either to the Khanate or to a resurgent Ethiopia. A realignment of the Khanate, as the most irredentist of the victorious powers, with the beaten Africans is also possible; we have a ready-made ideological conflict in that the Khanate is the most economically free of the world’s states, while Germany is explicitly Communist. In the heat of the War this could be ignored, but as things cool down militarily and freeze under the shadow of the mushroom cloud, the difference will again come to the forefront. The American powers, having settled the question of Eurasian hegemony to their satisfaction, will perhaps retreat again into relative isolation; at any rate there is no particular reason for them to further involve themselves in the affairs of the Old World, except to ensure that they have access to oil and, of course, export markets.

It is, on the whole, a much more pleasant history than either of the Yngling timelines. We might even see a peaceful revolution in Germany, in the style of our 1989, leading to a loss of control of the Scandinavian puppets, Croatia, and Russia, but also to a much more dynamic economy and personal freedoms. Still, the world will not be without its flashpoints of conflict: India, Korea, Australia (whose Ethiopian settlers will likely seek independence, if not reunification with the mother country) and perhaps border skirmishes in the Himalayas where ghazi fanatics may well seek martyrdom against the infidel – or, indeed, where the Senate and the People may find it convenient to demonstrate their resolute support for the legitimate aspirations of the oppressed Indian peoples. Even so, by 1990 this world should be much wealthier than ours (assuming, at least, that it manages to avoid a devastating nuclear exchange), with millions of Chinese ex-peasants industriously working away at supplying the world with manufactured goods. I would not be surprised to see a Moon shot ten years earlier than in OTL, and an even faster development of space.

Perhaps, even, when the Quantum Device is finally invented – “it follows inevitably from the unification of gravity with quantum field theory” – this world will not contain any people so unsatisfied with their lot as to use it. Even the Russians who have lost two-thirds of their old empire, even the Khanate with its millennial ambition to reunite all its lost provinces, even Punjab which always desires to spread submission into the House of War – even these revanchists and irredentists may well flinch from the final desperate choice of the mad Ynglings. It is no light matter to throw away a thousand years of history. Who would destroy the desperate courage of the battle at Jvris Ugheltekili? Who would cast into nonexistence the bitter struggle against Russian numbers? Who, even, would throw away the blood and sacrifice of Athena Squadron? Not this Rome; not the Rome that is rightly called the Eternal City, although its mere geography may change from time to time. Rome remembers; and this history for all its bitterness shall not pass away.

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