Friday, 14 November 2014

The Three Emperors

The title of this post is rather misleading, as pedants will immediately point out that none of the three were emperors. Indeed none of them came even remotely close to being emperor. And perhaps more relevantly none of them wanted to be emperors.

However the title seemed apt for what these three achieved in their lifetime.

And before I begin, when thinking of this period in the history of the Sicilian republic, I was reminded of the old Chinese proverb (that I made up this morning), "don't go seeking monsters in mirrors."

 Those who have been following will recall that a one hundred year war with Byzantium for the kingdom of Sicily was brought to an end when in 1024 Musa became the first Muslim Emperor of Byzantium, thus opening the empire up to any non Muslim that wished to bite chunks out of it by way of Holy War. And there were a number of eager wolves circling the arrogant and dogmatic Musa's realm. The Serbs and Bulgarians to the north, and the Georgians to the east, all entered into the free for all; along with the various Orthadox princes unwilling to convert to Islam, ethnic Greeks, Croats and Dalmatians seeking independence and religious freedom, and of course iconoclast rebels. And there was the Duke of Amalfi, who at this time was Leon I, a.k.a 'the old', who had adopted Norse culture and was living it up in the Polkarios mansion whihc by now was completely maxed out, and dominated the skyline of Amalfi.

It certainly overshadowed the Barratt homes of the rivals merchant families, who if they were lucky got the chance to fit a new kitchen, or have plastic windows fitted, before they were despatched by the Polkarios murder gangs.

But there was a problem in the republic. A problem that had been exercising the minds of the council and old Leon for some time. And the name of the problem was Daniel.

The story of Daniel is interesting in itself. His father was the youngest son of the one of the Doge's (It may have been Polkarios Polkarios (so good they named him twice) but I forgot to check - it was one of the first Dukes). He was born after his father's death, his father having died in his late seventies. At the time it was the practise to have two male children tutored by the Doge, and all the rest tutored by soldiers - if the soldiers had other skills then so much the better, but the primary focus was on martial skills.

Daniel's grandfather, also called Daniel, went through this education system, and because there were at the time a lot of children, mainly girls, and because of the succession system, his existence was largely unnoticed until he came of age at 16, and turned out to be a genius theologian.  So good were his skills that an allowance was made in the rule of not paying family dues and he was immediately found a wife and set to work as the court chaplain.

The plan was that he was sire three children and then found a suitable Bishopric, in order that the family would use it's growing wealth to push him towards becoming the Pope.

However, that plan was scuppered when after two children, Daniel succumbed to the lure of Beamont castle and went off to become the baron.

After much cursing of that damned castle, it was decided to just forget about the idiot, there were more pressing matters, like war with Byzantium for the foot of Italy.

And indeed Daniel was forgotten, and then suddenly out of the blue his grandson became the nominated heir to Leon I. It came as a complete surprise, and was all the more startling because Daniel refused to come to court. Which broke what had become a tradition of naming the new emperor regent, designated heir, and High Admiral, those giving them the prestige needed so as not to have to put any money into the election. And worse Daniel was young, in his late thirties or early forties, and not generating much more prestige than a newly spawned random rival candidate.

And worse his stats were terrible.

After a run of brilliant strategists, with very good martial scores and decent stewardship and diplomacy, here was a spy, and not a particularly good one, his intrigue was about 10, and all his other stats were 6 and below.

It didn't help him that he was unmarried, and his liege the Baron of Beaumont, who was a cousin of his, and about 10, refused to let him marry any of the women we tried to send.

Plus his picture. I'm not sure which facepack it comes from but he was basically a hippy, with long hair, straggly beard, and saggy eyes that gave him the impression of smoking too much weed.

The obvious solution was tried, namely to have him murdered. When the plot didn't go anywhere, the spymaster was sent to help things along, and though it jogged a few people's arms, it was all taking too long, and not really getting beyond 70%. Meaning that the farming of the rival families was falling behind schedule - one of them even had the audacity to expand their mansion - which in turn meant that more money had to be allocated to the election campaign, as Daniel on his own was only generating a little over 2000 prestige points. And it had become policy to always be at least 1000 points higher than the nearest rival to ensure there were no surprises when distracted by events elsewhere - like fiighting wars.

It was a huge problem, and one that did not have an easy solution, beyond waiting and seeing how things turn out.

Leon I wasn't that old. He got his name because when he became Doge he was over fifty, and didn't have any other distinguishing features, like a hunched back, or being greedy. And as a brilliant strategist, he could well live to live past 75, he at the time of Daniel's nomination was in his mid to late sixties.

Suffice to say Daniel became an annoyance, his stoned face smiling out from the family screen, in his little cameo frame..... grrrrr....

But there were more important things than scowling at the hippy, and cursing the name of Beaumont, and in 1025 Apulia fell and the Serene Republic of Sicily was established. And the following year, Leon I died.

One can picture the scene, there is the much loved and revered Leon being launched from Amalfi harbour in his burning galley, and up rolls in Daniel in the 11th century version of a flower power VW camper.

I was not best pleased to see him. And neither were the court or the rest of the family.

At which point I must digress, because what happened after the Holy War for Apulia was the start of a huge mistake in game play terms, and the reason for my making up a Chinese proverb.

Now bare in mind that I did not have a large pool of males to draw from, due to the penchant for joining military orders, a generation of entirely girls, and the reluctance of the only relatives I could find not wanting to leave Beamont castle. But I did have maybe 9 or 10 males that I could draw upon, ho had either just reached, or were about to reach maturity - until that point all my conquests had been towns and then counties, and fed directly into the ducal desmense.

And being a merchant republic, and therefore considering castles as effectively speedbumps in times of crisis, I blithely assumed, 'meh, it'll be fine, I'll give each of them the county, they'll run the city, and I'll randomly regenerate some vassals for the castles and the temples.... what can go wrong?"

Well clearly I didn't consider that for the past 150 years, I had murdered my way to get control of and keep control of Amalfi. And that putting family members into the viper's nest of city politics, was probably not the best idea, for the long term growth of the dynasty.

The city of Apulia was the first to go, the family member dying in suspicious circumstances, the penny didn't drop until much later... much much later.

But in the short term it was great, no penalty for wrong government, no factions, everyone is happy.

Now the reason Daniel gets included as one of the the three emperors, is because he showed my a valuable lesson, and laid in place a way of thinking that was to serve me well over the next 150 years when the money from trade, and the sea power provided the ships of the mansion, took Sicily to an Imperial power.

First I found him a good wife, as it turned out a very good wife. Which when added to the buffs provided by the newly completed mansion, took him from being a hippy loafer to a ruler with good solid stats - not stellar, but solid 10's. This combined with an excellent pilgrimage - he gained zealous and brave - and a couple of good hunting trips gave him diligent and +2 martial - and he went from using the rounded scissors to wielding the battle axe no problem.

Thus in 1030, the island of Sicily was taken in Holy War.

And again the istake was made in randomly assigning the castles and giving the few remianing family members the towns.

Wile not trying to justify this mistake but it did have one distinct benefit, namely that it weeded out the weak. While the more enterprising and perhaps lucky, managed to get hold of the castle, establish themselves as feudal lords and thus preserve the family from the machinations of low born majors and business rivals.

But that is putting a spin on what was a very poor decision on my part.

Daniel ruled for 12 years, and from his marriage produced a lineage that would provide more Dukes than any other. And perhaps most significantly took the Dukedom away from the realm of purely soldiers, and in more int he direction of diplomatic, stewardship and intrigue skills.

He also established very good relations with the Pope, which under Leon had become rather stained, not least because the Pope at the time had fabricated a claim on Capua and was threatening to use it.

Which brings us to Zenobios, who was also from Beaumont, and also refused to leave that damned castle to receive his honorary titles, and also required money and effort to secure his election. But Zenobios had another issue, he had taken a vow of absolute chastity.

Luckily for the republic, when Daniel died his wife, who by then had had fie or six children, was still in his twenties, and she - with her excellent stats - became Zenebios's consort. And dutifully for the republic outlived him.

In the wider world Musa had died, and been replaced as the Byzantine Emperor by his son, Husam. Who if it was possible was even more a character from central casting then his father. He had dungeons filled with people who refused to convert. He was fighting Holy Wars with everyone and anyone he could find. Which was fine with me, because all of these wars in the Balkans and Caucasus's, meant that I was free to get on with building my trading base, and develop my towns.... and in hindsight, wonder why the family members I had put into run the towns were dying off.

Occasionally there would be a dispute over a trading post, but pretty much it was a time of peace.

Because the simple fact is, that when I looked at the Byzantine Empire, and considered how much time and effort it would take to conqueror it, I had no desire to even try. Officially I was still part of it, though an independent part as I had always been, and technically they could still a de jure claim on me, but having just driven them out, and looking at the chaos that had resulted from the switch to Islam, I seriously doubted they would bother.

However another threat was developing to the south, in the form of the Abassid Empire. At one point in the dim and distant past I had considered taking Tunis and using it as a base, but the idea was dismissed rather promptly as I couldn't see what I would do with it beyond the simple acquisition of territory. 

But, at around this time I happened to notice that the Abassid's had taken the whole of Africa, apart from a few isolated places in the mountains of Ethiopia. I wouldn't have noticed by the Caliph had joined Husam in trying to pick fights over trading posts.

I thought at first that it was a Muslim thing - co-religionists ganging up - and it might well have been, not that it stopped them from slugging it out in Iraq.

To return to Zenobios for a moment, he brought with him something else - Greek culture.

Which may seem rather an odd thing to say, seeing as with the exception of the Viking fetishists, all the Dukes had been Greek. But until Zenobios there had been no blinding or castrations. I was vaguely aware that it was possible from reading a forum post. But given that I was in Italy in close proximity to the Pope, and leading a strictly Catholic life, and perhaps just not scrolling down that far in the intrigue screen, such things didn't happen. Not least because ransoming those who refusing to stop backing plots, or annoyed he in some other way that lead to their arrest seemed much more appropriate for a dynasty so focused on making money.

The discovery came about due to Leon I accidentally expelling the Jews. It was entirely by accident, as to that point I had had numerous Jewish councilors (though sadly few technology bonuses), and any attempt to convert them was entirely by accident because they happened to be in court when a heretic was about. But late one night, probably after a few beers, I had the intrigue window open, and whilst trying to close a pop up window which overlaid it, the Jews were no longer welcome in Sicily.

It was whilst looking for the button that says, 'COME BACK JEWS', that I found the blinding and castration buttons. I happened to have a prisoner handy. And thus Zenebios established the new law of Sicily - if I don't like you, or you do something that annoys me, or you don't stop doing something when I ask you, or more generally because I can - well you ain't seeing the sun come up.

I decided that castration would be kept for special cases.

At which point the title becomes even more irrelevant, because I have only managed to get through one and bit of the emperors - who were not emperors - that I intended.

Oh well....

More tomorrow.... when we shall get to the fateful year 1047, and the incident with the Caliph's brother's testicles.


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