Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Trouble at t' Mill

Bandit leader "Don" Dharko and Co cast their beady eyes on the Mill at Apl, Trnova

News is reaching Byzantion of a large bandit force massing in the heavily forested hills above the Northwestern town of  AplTrnova. The local Vardariots (Gendarmes) attempting to investigate were sent packing with a hail of musketry. On the other, western side of the river from Trnova, in the hamlet of Apl, is one of the Royal Mills, a very large Granary and a small supply depot - no doubt all this is what is attracting the bandits' attention - that, plus the county that Trnova lies in is a poor mountain region, so the locally paid miltia forces are near non-existent.

There is also a fear that the whole issue could be being prompted up by neighbouring states, and this may be a precursor to a raid or even an invasion. Consequently, the decision has been made to immediately despatch the Gianitzaroi - one of the the two guard light infantry units - to Trnova, along with available squadrons of 2 of the Huszar regiments of the Skythikon from neighbouring counties while their militia are called up. 

There is thus lots of activity in the barracks, and an advance company of the Gianitzaroi is marching out later today....

Monday, 27 December 2010

de Tott

de Tott's ship sailing into Byzantion bay, escorted by a Byzantine Naval Tartane

Seen at Court today - Francois de Tott, son of Count Miklós Bercsényi (founder of the eponymous Hussars in French service). He arrives on his way back from Turkish occupied Constantinople to France.

As a youngster, François joined his father's regiment, and in 1754 was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. In 1755 he travelled to Constantinople, as the secretary of his uncle Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, who had been appointed ambassador. His main duty was to learn the Turkish language, to investigate the situation in the Ottoman Empire and to gather information about the Crimean Khanate.

What he is doing at the Byzantine Court is unclear, but news reaches us that Admiral Periplous, Professor Kosmo Kalkulos (the Chief Imperial Engineer), the entire General Staff of Harrumphing Generals and Baron Munchausen are also attending.

Something is clearly afoot......

In the meantine, Commander Villaineuse is looking over the French ship in fine detail......a fast Brigantine, beloved of the Corsairs

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Corps du Vin

As with many other Imagi-Nations, New Byzantium has as its roots a less imaginary 18th Century nation, in this case the French. But that French army is in itself a bit of an Imaginary army - it is the Corps du Vin, using all the regiments from wine producing areas, as well as being in the process of recruiting a few "borrowed" and imaginary ones .

For those interested, here is the webpage detailing it's progress.

It is in the process of being drilled in new formations (aka rebased from Age of Reason rules) as well as recruiting a few more units, they should be in their new uniforms within a week or so.

We hope to have a few portraits of the army up shortly, once they come off training manouevres........

There is a backstory about the commander of the force, the Viscomte de Pinotage (above), who hails originally from the French Caribbean  colony of Saint Jacques, (as does New Byzantium's French naval advisor, Commander Villaineuse, but that, as they say, is another story.....

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Odessa File

For those of you interested in "Interbellum" (between the wars) gaming, this may be of interest. I have a Greek WW1 army and was curious about it's activities in the Russian Civil War. (This all kicked off because I wanted my Greeks to fight a friend's Russians, rather than always being on the same side as they were on the Salonika Front. My thanks to Mark Plant and Rudy Nelson for their help on The Miniatures Page - Mark has written a book, see here)

The Greeks were part of a force that occupied Odessa to support White Russia in the Ukraine. The force is an opportunity to field quite a polyglot outfit - White Russians, Poles, French, Greeks, Rumanians and various local bandit...I mean heroic rebel bands.

The army dispositions are shown in the map above, the army TO&E below - just look at the variety of units, all mixed together -  looks like some extremely good scenarios in this! In addition, some of the White Russian units' uniforms were truly over the top (look at these posts for the uniforms)

(Actually makes anything I can make up in my Byzantia 1920 Imagi-Nation fairly tame!)

A. Eastern Sector (See map above)

– General Nérel, commander of the [French] 30th ID;
– HQ at Odessa;
– Command post at Gevanova.
– Infantry
– [French] 40th IR;
– two regiments of the Greek 13th ID;
– one regiment of the Greek 2nd ID;
– detachment of Russian Volunteer Army in cover.
– Artillery:
– one group from the divisional artillery of the [French] 30th ID;
– artillery of the Greek 13th ID;
– field and heavy artillery of the Russian Volunteer Army
– Cavalry
– two squadrons of the 4th Chasseurs d’Afrique and one battalion of MGs
– one squadron of Russian Volunteer Army

I. The advanced line ran along the Cerbka river, the bridge at Popovca on the Tilgulski [Liman}and the
defile of Koblievo-Troïtkoïe. Covered to the east by a detachment of the Russian Volunteer Army
operating between the Berezanski Liman and the Tiligulski Liman (1 battalion, 2 squadrons and 2 guns), it
was divided into three parts:

a. Under the orders of Lieutenant-Colonel de Clavières:
– advanced post of Cerbka
– advanced post of Pocrovscoe;
– bridge of Popovca.
– advanced post of Cerbka under the orders of Colonel Manetas and consisting of:
– one Greek IR;
– one Greek artillery group;
– two [French?] 75mm batteries;
– one Greek engineer company;
– one squadron of the 4th Chasseurs d’Afrique;
– one Greek infantry battalion at Bol Buyalic in support,
limited to the east by the Tchernogorka to Krasnogorka (included) road and to the west by the
Gradenfeld to Andriewka road, and liaising to the east with the Russian Volunteer Army
detachment and to the west with the Polish cavalry at Liebenthal.
– advanced post of Pocrovscoe under the orders of the commander of the Russian Volunteer Army
detachment and disposing of:
– four infantry companies;
– 36 machine-guns;
– two squadrons on foot;
– 10 guns,
limited to the west by the Tchernogorka to Krasnogorka road and the east by the village of Kapri.
Liaising to the west with the advanced post of Cerbka on the river of the same name and to the
east to the village of Kapri with the advanced post of Popovka.
– advanced post of Popovka held by two companies and 16 MGs of the Russian Volunteer Army in liaison
to the west with the company of the Russian Volunteer Army in Kapri and to the east with the garrison of
Koblievo at Savnia.

b. Fortified line of Koblievo-Troitkoie, under the orders of the commander of the Greek battalion
occupying the line and possessing a Greek battalion and 4 guns of the Russian Volunteer Army, limited to
the west by Tiligulski Liman and to the east by the sea. Liaison to the west to the village of Savnia with the
Russian Volunteer Army detachment at Popovka.

c. Cover to the east, under the direct orders of the general commanding the 1st Divisional Group
comprising a squadron of the Russian Volunteer Army (bulk at Krasnaia) patrolling in the direction of
Lubianka and Cozlo with a line of retirement on Koblievo-Troitkoie. The Russian Volunteer Army
occupied, as well, Otchakov, Fort National and Fort Kimburn.
The admiral to give all necessary orders to support, with the fleet, the occupation of Fort National and,
eventually, the evacuation of Otchakov.

II. An intermediate line, passing through Bol Buyalik and Kremidovska, to be held by:
– one Greek battalion;
– one half-company of Greek engineers;
– one French cavalry squadron;
– one platoon of French MGs;
– one French 75mm battery,
and placed in reserve at the disposition of the colonel commanding the 4th Chasseurs d’Afrique.

III. The principal line, under the orders of the colonel commanding the 30th ID, consisting of:
– two Greek battalions (of which one detached to the Troitkoie line);
– one French regiment;
– one Greek 75mm battery,
was divided into two sub-sectors each occupied by a Greek battalion and organised defensively:
– one sub-sector from the sea to Kouialnitchki Liman;
– one sub-sector from Kouialnitchki Liman to Gadjibiesky Liman.
In reserve, a French regiment at Marewska at the disposition of the general commanding the eastern sector.

B. Western Sector

Placed under the orders of General Borius, commander of the [French] 156th ID, limited between
Gadgibiesky Liman [exclusive] and the Dniestr (exclusive) and consisting of:
– a sub-sector of defence, properly speaking;
– Odessa itself;
– a detachment in cover at the water plant under the direct orders of the general commanding the 1st
Divisional Group.

I. Sub-sector of defence, under the orders of General Borius, limited to the east by Gadgibiesky Liman and
the Dniestr to the west, in liaison to the east around Andriewka with the Polish Cavalry and to the west, on
the Dniestr, with the Romanian units occupying Tiraspol and consisting of:
– Infantry:
– one regiment of the [French] 30th ID;
– one regiment of the [French] 156th ID;
– one regiment of the Greek 2nd ID;
– one Romanian infantry regiment, under certain conditions.
– Cavalry:
– one regiment of Polish cavalry.
– Artillery:
– one group from the divisional artillery of the [French] 30th ID;
– one group from the Greek 13th ID;
– one Romanian group.

II. Advanced line: Under the orders of the lieutenant-colonel commanding the [French] 58th IR, running
along the railway to Razdelnaia and consisting of:
– the advanced post of Razdelnaia-Tiraspol;
– Tiraspol;
– the detachment at Bielajewska.

a. The advanced post of Razdelnaia-Tiraspol, under the orders of the commander of the 1st battalion of the
58th IR and comprising:
– one Romanian battalion;
– one battalion of the 58th IR (less one section);
– one Romanian battery,
in liaison to the east with the Polish cavalry around Poniatowka and to the west with the garrison of
Tiraspol around Strasburg.

b. Tiraspol, under the orders of the lieutenant-colonel commanding the Romanian regiment and consisting
– two Romanian battalions;
– one Romanian battery;
– one section of the [French] 58th IR,
in liaison to the east with the garrison of Razdelnaia around Strasburg, to the west with the Romanian
troops of Bessarabia at the Bender bridge. The liaison with the advanced post of Cerbka (eastern sector)
and with Razdelnaia (western sector) was confided to the Polish cavalry of which the bulk was at
Chimiotowka, under the direct orders of the lieutenant-colonel commanding the 58th IR.

c. Detachment at Bielajewska [the water plants] under the direct orders of the general commanding the 1st
Divisional Group and consisting of:
– three infantry companies;
– one squadron;
– one battery.
of the Polish 4th ID.

III. The intermediate line, under the orders of the lieutenant-colonel commanding the [French] 58th IR,
holding Novodlagodatnaya with the staff of the regiment and one battalion of the 58th IR.

IV. The principal line, established at 6 to 8 kilometres from Odessa, running via Ustowa, Dalnik and
Tatarka, under the orders of Colonel Gargalidis, commander of the Greek 2nd ID and held by one infantry
regiment of that division.


This was placed under the orders of General Borius, the governor, charged
with the interior defence of the town. The defence was to be based on the organisation of a principal line
established around the rail line and a redoubt in support of the port.
The support of the fleet was to be realised by agreement between the governor and the admiral
commanding the naval forces in Odessa.

General Borius had for the defence of the town:
– the [French] 156th ID (less a regiment);
– one company of the legion;
– one regiment of tirailleurs algériens;
– the 4th regiment of Chasseurs d’Afrique, less two squadrons;
– the remainder of the Polish 4th ID;
– the remainder of the Russian Volunteer Army;
– the Russian police;
– the disembarked companies [naval landing parties]
– the staging battalions (Indo-Chinese for the port guard and Algerian for the redoubt).

A general reserve, at the disposition of the general commanding the 1st Divisional Group, consisted of:
– one infantry regiment of the Greek 2nd ID and the advised reinforcements;
– tanks of the AS/303 (one section at Peressip, one at the station, one in the proximity of the HQ)
– the 534th Hellenic Aviation Sq. (As best as I can work out equi[pped with DeHavilland DH.4 or 9)

The Battles were:

Defense of Kherson Russia = January 17-February 25 1919. A series of bitter engagements fought against Red Russian forces. Units of the Greek 7th and 34th Divisions conducted a combination of attacks, reinforcing and defensive operations.

Battle of Vasilinovo and Berezovka Russia = February 8- March 5 1919. A series of bitter engagements fought against Red Russian forces. Units of the Greek 1st and 34th Divisions conducted a combination of attacks, reinforcing and defensive operations.

Relief of Kherson = February 23, 1919. The Greek 1st regiment broke through the Red lines surrounding Kherson long enough to evacuate the besieged Allied garrison.

Battle around Odessa = March 6-21 1919. The Greek 3rd, 34th and 5/42nd Regiments fight a series of engagements around the city of Odessa.

Operations in Sevastapol = March 1919. The Greek 2nd Regiment is involved in several battles around the city.

Defense of Odessa = March-April 1919. The Greek forces in the city delay the Red Forces by using a fighting withdrawal tactic

Sunday, 12 December 2010

An even Newer Byzantium

It did occur to me that Imagi-Nation readers may be interested in 1920's and 30's Newer Byzantium, set in the 1920's/30's as a way of playing Balkan Back of Beyond type games - basically WW1 with all that wonderfully weird 'tween the wars kit, and lots of political intrigue.

It springboards off my Greek WW1 army. (I was offered c 80 Eureka Greek Evzones of the 1908 - 1918 period few years back and just had to buy them). Evzones are the men in skirts (called the fustinella), tassled hats and pompoms on their shoes who now function as the Greek guards - but a cursory glance at their history will tell you they were top class troops. The Greeks were present in various Balkan wars, WW1 (see here for my army) as well as fighting in  the Russian Civil War (that's the picture above) and vs Turkey, so are quite active anyway, but I wanted to mix battles, intrigue and the small political struggles that characterised the 1920's and 30's, so I always had in the back of my mind that they would be the foot soldiers of a 1920's Balkan nation..

The backstory is that New Byzantium comes into being after World War One, and is created independently because none of the major powers can agree who to give this (fairly vaguely defined)  bit of the Balkans to, and thus they make it independent again. (New Byzantium was re-absorbed by the Ottoman Empire after the Napoleonic Wars, and despite agitating did not achive independence in the Balkan Wars period.

As with my 18th century outfit, I have reached back to Olde Byzantium for the regiments. The Guard now comprises of:

- The Varangian Guard (Armoured Stormtroopers), many ex White Russians now serve in it.
- The Gianitzaroi (Elite assault troops of Turkic origin who for various reasons dn't want to be in Turkey)
- The Scholae (heavy tanks)
- Trapezitae (top class lancers but also trained to operate as crack rifle armed cavalry)

Latinikon - not Guard, but certainly elite - the New Byzantines were impressed with the French Foreign Legion idea, and have thus recruited de-mobbed soldiers from Western Europe to an outfit based on the same lines.But, being Byzabtine no-one is a Real man if not mounted, so they function as Dragoons/mounted infantry

WW1 finally having convinced the powers that be that the heavy cavalry days are over, New Byzantium has resurrected the idea of provincial territorial heavy cavalry but put them in armoured cars (the local nobles being very keen on motoring, this went down well). The Skythikon and Turkopoloi remain as cavalry units but operate as any other cavalry of this period.

As always, the Vardariots function as police/gendarmes so are often first to be involved in any Troubles.

There is of course a vast difference between the dress uniforms of the army which hark back to more gaudy times, and their standard dusty khaki in real operations.

And of course, there is a small Air Corps, operating with (initially) easy-to-get WW1 cast-offfs and then getting 1920's/30's aircraft a few years later than the major powers.

As the main victorious powers in the region were Britain and France, and France seemed to be the more influential, New Byzantium begins it's life with primarly French organisation and equipment, but also quite a few bits purloined from defeated Bulgarian, Ottoman and German forces (and neighbouring Balkan nations).

This is the period of the first editions of Tintin and other literary Imagi-Nations, so New Byzantium is certainly well aware of the tensions between Syldavia and Borduria, unsettled intrigues in Ruritania, even peaceful Herzoslovakia is not untouched, and it also has Johnny Turk breathing down its back. This is also the period of Communist and Fascist demagogues, and dangerously democratic ideals fomented by Secret Societies, never mind the crackpot schemes of various Mad Professors in Transylvanian castles....

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Winter Quarters and Reinforcements

With the heavy falls of snow this morning, the obligatory last shots were traded on the Frontier with the Turks in the East,  Austrians in the West and Russians in the North (Russians - what're they doing there?) before all the forces traded sweetmeats (we get Turkish Delight, Vodka and Strudel, they get Fish sauce - fair deal) and marched into winter quarters to rebuild an re-arm for next year's campaigning season.

In New Byzantium, Saint Nicholas (above) is traditionally looked at to provide these things over this period, so here is the Basileos' Wish List:

- The Scholae - Eastern 3/4 armoured heavy cavalry lancers - Polish Winged Hussars with a few mods, natch

- Getting the Trapezitae up to strength and fully equipped, this should be the first tranche of "Willie" figures (de Saxe Uhlans of course)

- A unit of  New Byzantine Thematic Kavallarioi (Semi-Spahis), figures to be decided on - looking for Balkan looking lancers with swords, pistols etc
- A unit of Turkopoloi (Byzantine-friendly Turkish Light Horse) - ditto figures to be decided on, late Ottoman  figs I think.:

- A bit of High Culture....

- A bit of Low Byzantine Decadence

Monday, 29 November 2010

Today the Court welcomed Baron Munchausen (above), brought in to advise both about fighting the Turk in the recent campaigns, and about Aero-Nautics, of which he has written much.

The Montgolfier boys, those two young French tearaways that came over with Commander Villaineuse and are currently working with the Navy on Aero-Nautical Scouting against pirates, were fairly rude about the Baron's thinking.

"Flight will be done by kite like arrangments or be like birds, as the great da Vinci has written. These ideas of lighter-than-air gases should be taken with a degree of levity."

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Send the Marines!

Further Corsair depradations along the coastline have sharpened the need for an end to naval gazing.  Earlier this week,  an Imperial Navy xebec spotted a Corsair ship and gave chase, but had to let it ecape as the ship was fulled to the gunwales with vicious looking villains.

Admiral Periplos and Commander Villaineuse are of one voice "We Need a Regiment of Marines, then we don't have to ask the Army every time we want to put men on board".

Vizier Ekonomikos is against the idea, and the Basileos knows that he will have a deputation of  Harrumphing Generals if he agrees. But then Periplos pulls his mastercard....

"They could have Dark Blue uniforms, Sire, like you have always wanted!"

"With a hint of Purple?"

"Oh, more than a hint, Sire"

"Think of the cost, Sire - Purple dye is not cheap"

"My own Marine Regiment - that would look splendid"

"Let's start with a Battalion, Sire" 

"Oh alright, just a hint of purple then, and One Battalion of Marines to be recruited. - Sign the order Ekonomikos - Lord knows there are enough harbour-rats at the docks who could be recruited."

Doffing their hats, Periplos and Villaineuse retired backwards in as dignified a way as possible from the Imperial Presence (as it reached for its crayons to start designing a uniform), and the scowling visage of the Vizier. Once the Varangian Guard has swung the audience chamber doors shut, they high-fived each other and raced back to The Admiralty (a small tavern, not too far from The Admiralty building), proclamation in hand..

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

"I love the smell of Naphtha in the morning...."

....there was some considerable excitement at the waterfront early this morning when a large bang and a lot of smoke appeared from the Byzantion Naval Yard, sending every foreign spy scurrying half dressed down the Dockside Road (pursued by half the Harbour Gals, also semi dressed and  wanting their money). The crowd was shoo'ed away once the Vardariots had feasted their eyes on the Gals.

Doctor Leonardo Pipette , the Imperial Chief Alchemist, was later seen wandering homewards a bit dazed , his new-fangled bi-focal glasses broken on his blackened face, muttering about how he loved the smell of Naphtha in the morning.  

Capain Kostas Bravos, who we spoke to at the Golden Horn tavern, was sailing into the bay from an all night fishing trip, and said he was just putting a tack in when he saw a jet of flame, then a big explosion, then clouds of smoke, and then a Navy piquet hailed him and told him to move on, sharpish like....

(Inset - one of Dr Pipette's assistants seen just before the Big Bang)

Monday, 22 November 2010

Naval Manouevres.....

New Byzantium has a small but convoluted coastline, with one good major port, a second reasonable one, and a large number of small bays and coves dotted with fishing villages. One of the growing problems with its emergence as an (officially, anyway) Christian state has been the growing menace of Barbary (and other) Corsairs.

The Corsair nations of North Africa were among the first to recognise New Byzantium as an independent state, it took a while for the Basileos and his court to work out that all this meant was the pirates therefore saw them as no longer an Ottoman province, and thus fair game.

However, over the last decade, especially since New Byzantium's miltary success in 1750-51 (or more accurately, it's not losing) led to the Truce of Edirne with the Sublime Porte in 1751, the raiding has become progressively worse - the Byzantine Foreign Office believe that the Turks may even be aiding and abetting these Pirates with local bases.

So, what to do?

There has been a major attempt to woo the British, offering the main harbour of Byzantion as a naval base as part of a deal for Britain to fund Byzantine military activity against Britain's opponents on the continent, but so far the perfidious Albions have been far more interested in jaw-jaw than war-war. 

The Byzantine Admiral,  Periplos, who claimed to haver served in the French Navy as a young man (what he is less keen to admit is that it was as a Galley slave) has felt out of his depth for some time, and recently recruited the French ex-Corsair (and now Boucannaire) Commander Pierre Villaineuse , who recently had to leave his native Caribbean island of St. Jacques for mysterious reasons.

Villaineuse's first step has been to hire some of his Caribbean cut-throat friends and their ships, and has thus incurred the disapproval of Byzantion's well to do (but also the enthusiastic approval of its harbour gals) and now has raised the Admiral's ire by arguing for Byzantium to create its own "Corsair's Charter".

The Emperor was rather interested in all the talk of spankers, feluccas, sloops and tartanes until he realised that the sailors also referred to ships as "she"

The Court can see the potential problems this may cause diplomatically, but on the other hand a self-funding Navy makes a strong case for a strapped-for-cash statelet. As for the Byzantine seafaring folk, they are all for it. "Villaineuse has brought us into the 18th century", said Captain Kostas Bravos, captain of the sloop Ionnas B.

Old Salts on the docks noted that the Corsair's Charter would just legalise what Bravos and his ilk do anyway under the guise of "coastal trading"....

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Octagon to be finished by next summer

We are told by the Minister of Works that the Octagon in the Palace will be fully restored by next Summer, at the same time as the Hippodrome, and that a great entertainment and sporting spectacle, and a full parade of the Army, is planned for the opening. Lets hope there was no skimping on restoring the Great Arch through which they wil all march, or someone's head will roll....

Work has been going on to restore the palace for the best part of 20 years now under the guidance of Professor Kosmo Kalkulos, Chief Imperial Engineer, and the Palace is now at least functional, but for the Basileos of New Byzantium to really impress visitors, the opening of the Octagon - the old Roman Throne chamber of the Emperor Galerius - will be a big step forward.

There is still furious debate about what the Hippodrome will be used for after it is rebuilt, as Chariot racing is not as popular as it was 500 years ago. Polo has been mentioned but there is some argument about who will pay to clean up afterwards.

We know there is a strong support for re-creating the Olympic Games, and a number of syndicates are working on bids to run them, but that is only every four years.

Rumour has it that some of the English troops in the Guard want to play their game of foote-ball there, which is played by kicking a pigs bladder between poles at either end of the field while the opposing team tries to stop this. Seems most odd, cant see that taking off here.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The role of Marshal de Saxe in the creation of New Byzantium

(Picture - de Saxe's original design for the New Byzantine Legion formation)

Between the ending of the War of the Polish Succession and the beginning of the War of Austrian Succession, the New Byzantine leadership solicited the advice of Maurice de Saxe (later to become Marshal of France) in the off-campaigning seasons to build their new army. Being a man of great talent but expensive habits, the Byzantine money came in very handy.

It was he who organised the fledgling army, and although his Reveries on the Art of War oddly fail to mention his time in Byzantium, the results are there for all to see - de Saxe took back with him what he had learned from his work in New Byzantium and later formed a Free Corps of light cavalry that looked almost the same as the Byzantine ones that had been formed under his guidance, to the extent of copying their classically inspired helmets and even their kontos lances.

De Saxe's views on the formation of the Legion are not theoretical, much of the organisation and practice was carried out in the Legions of New Byzantium, though the back 2 ranks of half pikes was found in practice*  to be less useful than extra firepower and the provision of helmets was felt to be too costly except for the heavy (and Guard) cavalry, wherefrom the classical helmet now used across Europe comes. His designs of flags for the legions were only adopted in small parts, use of classic Byzantine heraldtry being preffered, though the mainly muslim Gianitzaroi adopted his crescent moon design as their own. Also his "amusette" light gun that he "invented" was just picked up from the use of light Turkish pieces by the Legions of New Byzantium. 

Also, his ideas on heavy cavalry were based on his experience in transforming the original New Byzantine sipahi style heavy cavalry into a formidable Guard force, the Scholae. When he wrote in his Reveries that he could not see why cavalry should not be heavily armoured, carry lances and charge, and that he had invented a form of lamellar armour he was not joking - he had taken all these ideas from the Turko-Byzantine tradition and applied them to the Scholae - in fact he hadn't "invented" his armour, it was a straight copy of the eastern lamellar armour that the Scholae now use.

de Saxe came back in the winter of 1749-50 to oversee his work, and in fact re-wrote quite a bit of his Reveries while in New Byzantium. (Some say he wrote the book under the influence of opium - the Palace cannot comment, but notes that there are many opportunities to have a Good Time in New Byzantium and that)

* Except in the fantasy game of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, but that as we all know is an unreal Imagi-Nation and not the reality of New Byzantium :D

Monday, 15 November 2010

Byzantium in the Age of Reason

Following their defeat at the gates of Vienna in 1688, the Ottoman Empire went into a long decline and Russia and Austria nipped away at its European lands. Many of its subject provinces started to agitate for more independence as Ottoman power waned, and in quite a few there was open revolt, though the typical outcome was the Ottoman Empire came to terms with them, albeit usually leaving them virtually independent. This is the story of one of those states, the (alternative) history of New Byzantium. 

In 1716, Prince Eugene of Savoy defeated the Turks at Petrovaradin. The Banat and its capital Timişoara was conquered in October 1716. The following year, after the Austrians captured Belgrade, the Turks wanted peace and in 1718 the Treaty of Passarowitz was signed. The Austrians maintained control over Belgrade, leaving the Turks with control over the south bank of the Danube river.  By the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish war in 1735, Russia had managed to secure a favorable international situation by signing a few treaties with Persia in 1732–1735 (which was at war with Turkey in 1730–1736). Austria had been Russia's ally since 1726.

Emboldened by this, many of the remaining territories of what is now New Byzantium felt it was time to remove the Turkish yoke and rose in revolt. In the absence of their Sanjak (Governor) the population of Salanik (Thassaloniki) overthrew the remaining Ottoman garrison and established New Byzantium. The Turkish army, busy fighting Russia and Austria, was not in a position to put down the revolts and the revolutionaries. Russia and Austria could see the benefit of such a revolt in the Turkish rear, fed the revolutionaries with money and surreptitious military assistance. At the end of the war, the Turks attempted to restore order but were too weak and the revolutionaries, with the help of Russian forces landed from the Black Sea and Austrian Grenz troops, forced Turkey (through gritted teeth) to give them semi-independence at the Treaty of Edirne

Under Austrian and Russian influence (and to stop the factional fights that threatened to tear the new Byzantium apart - or even worse, become that most dangerous of things, a Democratic republic), a new king, or Basileios, with vague connections to the last Byzantine emperors was found and installed as Constantine X, and the Greek Orthodox church was quick to move an autocephalous Patriarch to the new capital of Byzantion. During the 1740 - 1748 War of Austrian Succession, New Byzantium happily took Prussian and French money to attack Austria, but spent most of this loot in building up its own army, and its attacks on Austria were slow and largely ineffective. When the French and Prussians pressed this point, Constantine X responded that he needed more materiel and training to build a "proper" army - which France duly gave, and is reflected in the French flavour of the army even today.

By 1751, Turkey felt Austria and Russia were sufficiently weakened to try and overturn the treaty of Edirne and attacked New Byzantium, and at this point it became clear that Constantine's policy in the War of Austrian Succession had been to build his own forces up while expending as little energy as possible in actually fighting Austria, and the French trained Byzantine army, supplemented with its European mercenary soldiers demobbed  from the recent wars (and urgently recruited as mercenaries) gave the still largely feudal Turkish army a bloody enough nose in a series of engagements that made the Turks rethink their policy towards this irritating but relatively small new demistate. The Treaty was re-ratified, but no-one was under any illusion that this was a stable situation.  

The troops of the revolt were primarily men serving in the Turkish army as well as a ployglot collection of mountain men, farmers and city militias. They were joined by a ragtag collection of demobbed European soldiers, idealists and ne-er do wells who formed the core of Western style cavalry and infantry units, but without Russian and Austrian help the revolt would probably still have been put down. 

After being anointed, Constantine quickly realised that his best option was to build a core force of European style heavy cavalary and line infantry which the Turks had no real answer to, but use it in conjunction with the local troops who were better at the light infantry and light cavalry warfare that Turkish forces excelled in. With a vengeful Ottoman empire breathing down his neck he know there was no time to train his own troops, so like the Byzantine emperors of old he used the French and Prussian money to recruit more European soldiers as mercenaries. He resurrected the names of some of the great regiments of the Byzantine Empire to add lustre to loot. 

In addition he regularised the local ex-Ottoman light troops, as he and his French advisors (None other than Marshhal de Saxe was chief advisor, and in fact it is his influence that drove the formation the armoured Scholae lancers, but that is a story for another time....) realised that Balkan light troops, properly armed and with some discipline, were the match of any (indeed most European armies were busy recruiting them as well). The desultory border fighting with Austria was more about training this new army to operate together, and capturing equipment, before the inevitable clash with Turkey. This was accomplished in the nick of time, so that when the Turks attacked in 1750 the locals, stiffened by the mercenaries of the new Varangian Guard, Foreign Legion, Latinikon, Gianitzaroi, Turkopoloi and their own light troops were able to inflict enough early reverses on them to delay their plans. At the same time, fortuitously, many demobbed Prussians, French, Austrians and other nationalities were available after the ending of the War of Austrian Succession and more were hastily recruited as mercenaries and put into new battalions and squadrons, and it was this force that then caused the Turks sufficient damage to persuade them too sue for peace till another day, and the Truce of Edirne was signed in 1751. 

Roll forward to today, and the early stages of the Seven Years War. New Byzantium is (as usual) carrying out a delicate balancing act of trying to get money out of warring European states and collaborating with Turkey to extract trade revenue while carefully watching them as well. Austria and Russia are fighting with France against Prussia and England, and the new Basileos, Alexius VI  is busy negotiating with the British for payments to attack Austria and Russia, and letting them use his main port as a naval base in return. The newly resurrected emblem of the Byzantine Eagle is truly watching both ways (or is truly two-faced, as its opponents claim)