One Emperor

From “The Roman Empire in the 12th Century” by A. S. Stamper.

“Following the events of the Year of Three Emperors it became clear that Emperor Alexios, in alliance with Basilopraetor Michael, would inevitably be the victor of the ongoing Civil War. At the meeting of the Peace of the Covenant at Midwinter 1192 all three claimants attended. Unfortunately we have only the correspondence and events that followed that meeting to guide us as to the agreements and deals reached in Jerusalem.

“Nonetheless the basic sequence of events seems clear. The first claimant to abandon ambitions to become emperor was General Aprenos. Returning to Constantinople with his family (daughters Honoria and Augustina) he publicly denounced his wife Candida as a renegade and traitor, and the one responsible for the ill-advised war with the Kingdom of Georgia […] With Lucius Aprenos came much of the imperial treasury, transferred by his wife in a bid to support his claim upon the throne. Much remained missing, however, the amount left was barely enough to allow the government of the Empire to continue to the summer […] Emperor Alexios took no action against either General Aprenos or his family and within months he had resumed his previous life in his townhouse in Constantinople and he remained garrison commander at Myra […]

“The situation with the Empress Augustina was more slow to develop, however only a month after the end of the Meeting of the Peace of the Covenant she too had abandoned her claim to the throne. Recent research into the surviving correspondence between the Empress and her chief advisor Simeon Gabriel indicates a long, and at times bitter, argument between the two. It is clear that Gabriel thought the situation unsalvageable and, perhaps equally importantly, no longer believed Emperor Alexios, Basiloprator Michael or the Bishop of Caesarea to have been responsible for the murder of Emperor Isaac II Angelos.

“Eventually Gabriel's arguments prevailed and with the certainty of loss of life for no gain, and the knowledge that their could now be no revenge against the transformed murderers of her elder brother, Empress Augustina abandoned her claim to the throne. Indeed, perhaps disgusted by the events in which she had participated, she returned to the convent on Zante she had left only a year before and resumed her life as a nun.

“There was some concern in Constantinople that she had never visited that city to swear loyalty to the rightful emperor, but she never left the convent and in the dramatic events of the following years was quickly forgotten […]”

Disappearance of Simeon Gabriel

Extracts from “Mysteries of The Fourth Covenant” by Matthew Argent.

”… publicly Simeon Gabriel made his arrangements to leave the Crusader Kingdoms, banished by the Privy Council and the authority of King Baldwin from that land. He was given enough grace to settle matters in the Roman Empire, his allies pledging loyalty to Emperor Alexios, and to conclude certain financial affairs within Jerusalem.

“Simeon had been one of the first and most fervent supporters of the Fourth Covenant and used his considerable wealth to promote it in his dealings both within the Crusader Kingdoms and outside. So it was little surprise that he should depart for Spain with considerable wealth and fully prepared with testaments and witnesses to spread the word of the Fourth Covenant.

“Except that neither Simeon Gabriel not his ship ever reached the Iberian peninsula.

“This caused considerable concern in Constantinople, fear that Simeon Gabriel had not truely surrendered his ambitions in that Kingdom. Of course it was only a matter of months before the truth became clear, that Simeon Gabriel had set sail for Africa there to meet with Prester John and his nobles, a trip intended to take years and to reach territories unknown to the Latin or Greek world, all to spread the word of the Fourth Covenant.

“To any that would listen Simeon Gabriel spoke of the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, the coming of Immanuel, and the prophets and how he was fortunate enough to witness some of the miracles that took place. Always he stressed the importance of the individual in good action and acheiving salvation, especially good action such as going and fighting the forces of evil.

“Enough listened, Prester John himself listened, and so it was the armies of Africa marched to war against evil.”

The Marriage of Sergios o Ithakenseys and Anna Voukellarios

An account of the marriage from the Megas-Doux John Choniates to his cousin.

“My wife pronounced herself most impressed with the bridal gown of Sergios' wife Anna Voukellarios, the daughter of one of the richest nobles of that fertile island, granting that it was the equal to any that a noblewoman of Constantinople would wear.

“The wedding ceremony was a small private affair to which was invited only the most important persons in the Empire. The ceremony took place in the small chapel of the nunnery of St. Leocadia, officiated by the bishop of Caearea. I have remarked before that the bishop seems a nervous fellow and certainly I had the impression that he feared that a nun would jump out and surprise him at any moment! Of course the most important guest was the Emperor himself and his own wife Lida who were treated at all times with the deferrence that was their due.

“After the ceremony the married couple paraded through the streets of the city to the citadel of Constantia, all the streets bedecked with flowers and garlands. I believe that the governor is most popular with his people for such enthusiasm is hard to fake.

“During the banquet, the newly-wed couple presented Emperor Alexios and the Empress a small silver box, filled with spices, as a gesture of loyalty and gratitude to the Emperor. The Emperor and Empress took some upon their food and commended the governor for his gift, though the refused to sample it himself for he had developed a delicate stomach. Though I do not know if it was the nervousness of the groom or the husband before his wedding night.

“For us the night ended with Cypriot dancers, musicians and the finest of other entertainers as we dined upon a fine banquet.”

The Infertility of Emperor Alexios and Lida

From “Betrayals and Treachery in the Later Roman Empire”, Chapter 22, Volume LXIV, published by Constantinople University Press (1926).

”[…] known as a master alchemist in his own right, and the master of what had by now become the foremost academy of alchemists amongst the Orthodox, it was natural that Emperor Alexios should turn to his trusted advisor Sergios o Ithakenseys when it became clear that the Empress-Consort Lida was barren. For many years the Nobilissimos (as he had by then become) appeared to toil without results and the succession of the Empire became a matter of growing concern.

”[…] Many decades later it became clear that General Aprenos, though unaware of this scheme, took full advantage of the situation. His daughters were, although not directly in line of succession, excellent candidates for the throne and more so likely brides for any who did ascend. General Aprenos cultivated his own image and more particularly those of his eldest daughter Honoria, aiming for the throne through less martial means.

“Of course, the actual author of the plot, Nobilissimos Sergios o Ithakenseys, was making similar preparations on behalf of his own son. Although we can never be certain when the alchemical potion was fed to Alexios and Lida, it seems most probable that it was during own Sergios' wedding. Ironically it is possible that it was on this very night that Sergios' son Georgius was conceived […]

“It is not clear when the Patriarch of Constantinople, Alexios' oldest ally Panagiotis Giannopoulous, began to suspect the truth. Certainly we know that the Patriarch had become aware of Sergios' unorthodox training of the nuns at the Convent of St. Leocadia as assassins, and had passed this information to Alexios by the end of 1193, but the Emperor seems to have trusted his Nobilissimos enough to have taken no action. Nevertheless it may have been the first seed of doubt.

“In the first years of the 13th Century the Patriarch began more urgent investigations and we can be sure he was coming close to the truth when […]”

The Escape and Capture of Candida Aprene

Extracts from “The Eternal Queen - A History of the Kingdom of Georgia under Tamar”.

[…] escaped through the use of witchcraft from her execution.

Alerted to the improbable escape, Pyotr Loria immediately began a relentless pursuit. Unfortunately it was clear that Candida had confederates. From the first moments of her escape when a disguise was suspiciously close to hand and horses to speed from the scene, through to a carefully prepared series of hiding places that led to Arabia.

Pyotr Loria's pursuit of the fugitive was relentless, stretching out over a year, through the hills of Georgia to the desert sands. Eventually though he cornered her and a battle famous in song and poem of the Georgian balladeers began […]

Secret Alliance

From “Betrayals and Treachery in the Later Roman Empire”, Chapter 26, Volume LXIV, published by Constantinople University Press (1926).

[…] Although all too willing to denounce the treachery of his wife in public, and to those correspondents in whom there could be the least of doubts, in recent years there has been a significant reappraisal of the true relationship between the two. Most important has been the recovery of a cache of letters found in the wall of an abandoned well near Riyadh. In light of these new results the letters of Lucius Aprenos' daughters Honoria (old enough to conduct some small correspondence with her friends in Constantinople when her father visisted his garrison in Myra) show some telling gaps.

It is now clear that Lucius Aprenos kept up a secret correspondence with his divorced wife, in fact arranging for his daughters to visit with her on several occassions. There is evidence that an arrangement of fictitious “kidnappings” was being arranged before the Georgian Pyotr Loria caught up with Candida. The apparent purpose of these meetings was to enhance Lucius' reputation as a hero while placing his ex-wife in the role of his nemesis. A more subtle wrinkle was to give their daughters a chance to learn from a woman expert in the bureaucracy and machinations of the Roman court […]

Marriages End and Begin

Extracts from “The Development of Orthodox Canon Law” by Father Karloutsos.

Under the direction of the Bishop of Caesarea a number of annulments and divorces occurred in the months after the Year of the Three Emperors. The marriage between Nizam Ata and Constantia Angelos was the most unusual matter. While it was theologically certain that no marriage could exist between a godly woman and a demon, there was some reluctance amongst the court of canon law to concede that the Patriarch of Constantinople could ever have presided over the appearance of such a marriage. Fortunately the Bishop of Caesarea presented compelling evidence that Nizam Ata had been human and had in some way consorted with the fallen angels to join their ranks. The annulment was thus granted, though at the request of the Bishop of Caesarea it was kept secret, and instead the official version was that Nizam Ata had passed away in battle agains the enemies of the Empire.

The divorce of Lucius Aprenos and Candida Aprene proved theologically more difficult, for ther marriage seemed to be in order, but politically it was clearly in the interests of the Church and the Empire. Behind closed doors the arguments became heated, but with the support of the husband and of the Patriarch of Constantinople and Bishop of Caesarea grounds were found and a decree of divorce promulgated.

Administrative Reforms

“Reconsidering Giannopoulos - A Rebel Biography” by T. M Iovivus, Constantinople University Press (1987).

[…] uncontroversial that the Patriarch was key to the administration of the Empire during the reign of Emperor Alexios, and the early years of the regency of the Empress Lida. With the Emperor firmly established upon the throne following Augustina and Lucius's abandonment of their claims, it was the then Bishop of Caesarea who began the laborious work of repairing the financial apparatus of the state. Candida Aprene had caused immense damage to the tax collection system and ensured that the matter would not be swiftly rectified. […]

[…] his senior colleagues within the government were certainly aware that the Patriarch was unusually well-informed, but it appears that only the royal family were aware of the extensive network of agents that the clergyman had built both within the Empire and without. Certainly we find no evidence in the correspondence of the Nobellisimo Ithakenseys that a man, sometimes referred to as the Emperor's right-hand, was aware of the full role of Giannopoulos. We may speculate that this was in part because of the suspicions harboured by Giannopoulos following his investigations into the Convent of St. Leocadia […]

[…] lasting reforms in the collection of taxation, tarriffs and other matters that were not revised in any serious manner for several centuries. This allowed the middle-classes and craftsmen considerable additional freedoms and increasing prosperity within the Roman Empire […]

The Far Western Empire

“Medieval Mysteries”, a book of popular history by S. Lascaris (1956).

In the final years of the 12th Century the Nobellisimo Sergios o Ithakenseys began a new and quixotic project. Negotiating safe passage through the waters controlled by the Western Kingdoms an armada, part privately financed and part drawing on the troops at his official disposal, set sail through the Straits of Hercules to little known islands in the great storm-wracked Atlantic. These islands had never before been part of the Roman Empire, in fact were controlled by no kingdom, though the Arab rulers of Morocco placed some tenuous claim upon them. Finding them filled with nothing but wild canines and wilder natives the Romans had little trouble establishing small fortified settlements.

Upon these islands Sergios bestowed his experience of governorship, bringing in colonists from across the Roman Empire, and establishing shipyards and the first agriculture and small villages. The islands proved fertile if remote and unprofitable, conducting some small export trade with the neighbouring Muslim kingdoms and exporting dye back to the Empire.

However, when events in Constantinople came to a head and it became clear that the Nobellisimo's efforts to cure the Emperor's sterility had been not just ineffective but deliberately incompetent, Sergios o Ithakenseys had prepared a place to which to flee. There he declared that “Hesperia”, his new Empire, was too far from Constantinople to be effectively ruled from there and named himself its new emperor.

Despite the nobles counselling the Emperor to revenge it is unclear if any military action was ever plausible with fresh tensions on the nothern borders […] Whatever the truth of Constanintople's plans - bluff or not - events took a stranger turn.

The implausibly large shipyards of Hesperia had not been idle and a number of immense arks had been built over the winter months. Come the summer weather and favourable winds these ships evacuated the settlers of Hesperia and sailed west. Ships filled with colonists and all the tools and supplies to last a decade while a settlement was built and farms and mines established […]

The Handbook of the Governor: "De Provincias Ministrando"

Some extracts from De provincias ministrando, a treatise by Sergios o Ithakenseys, counseling how a provincial governor shall act and behave. The illuminated original, presented to Emperor Alexios as a gift, is still on display in the Imperial Palace as an example to the bureaucrats who work there.

  • On Provinces and provincials - There is nothing worthier and more noble that to rule a Province of the Roman Empire. The governor of a Province does not only administer a region, but also leads its people towards a perfect equilibrium in the Empire. It is the main duty of the governor to balance the needs of its people and the demands of the Empire. Taxation shall be calculated on these two main premises….
  • The rôle of a governor - A good governor will always be the middle man between the emperor and his subjects. If an emperor has acted wrongly towards a province it is the duty of the governor to let the emperor know. If the emperor demands more from the province, the governor shall explain this to the inhabitants of the region….
  • On infrastructure - It is important to maintain and repair roads and bridges, as well as fortifications…. Try to use local staff who can speak the local language as well as Greek, as I had to learn all those years ago in the Crimea, this not only makes the people happy but also….
  • On bears - The things which will most certainly disrupt the peace in your province and which will cause more injuries to a governor are certainly BEARS. Bears are giant foul evil creatures which will take any oportunity to maraud around your settlements and even will dare to entre the governor's private bee-farms, disrupting the supply of honey…

The Succession of the Roman Empire

[…] When the Emperor Alexios died in 1208, his only son Basil a few years old, the Roman Empire mourned. The funeral procession, led by the immense herd of elephants he had gathered in the years of his reign, moved through streets thronged with mourners. […]

The Empress-Consort Lida became regent and ruled capably for a number of years with the Patriarch of Constantinople as her chief advisor. After the death of the Patriarch however the situation became more unstable. Factions within the Empire saw the chance to press their own interests, and the Regent lacked for allies with her father, husband and chief adviser all dead. Although in many ways a capable administrator and popular she was faced with long laid plans […]

To secure her son's place upon the throne Lida had no choice but to marry Basil, then only 12, to one of the most powerful of the Empire's noblewomen and one with her own weaker claim to the throne - Honoria Aprene, the daughter of Lucius and Candida - and the culmination of her parents schemes.

[…] descendants of the Karantenid and Aprene dynasties alternated upon the throne for the next century and a half […]

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