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Eastern Roman Empire survives as Ottoman Vassal State

Aznavour

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Much like Moldova and Wallachia, the ERE became a vassal state of the Ottoman Turks, but unlike the Danubian Principalities or Serbia, they were eventually just conquered and annexed as direct possessions.

But could the ERE have experienced a “survival” of sorts and eventual revival as did other vassal states such as Serbia or Moldova and Hungary? Or were the circumstances too different to allow for that?
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Geordie

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How long can the Ottomans realistically resist the lure of snatching up Constantinople from a weak vassal state, though?
Agreed. Only prospect I can see for such a state is based on a different area. A rump "Byzantium" based on the Peloponnese, or Trebizond, perhaps.

That, ironically, might require Constantinople to fall earlier.
 

Ciclavex

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Yes, as above, I can imagine a Greek-speaking Orthodox Christian rump state, possibly in modern OTL Greece, which has some kind of political continuity - possibly ruled by a major Byzantine noble family, which the Ottomans don’t bother to conquer properly, but I can’t imagine the Ottomans passing up on a city which was already known in all of the surrounding languages as just “The City”, and I can’t imagine the Ottomans tolerating a surviving rump state that still claims to be The Roman Empire for long if they can do anything about it. I think it’s also as above possible to imagine some kind of Trebizond surviving, though not the one that existed in the mid-15th century OTL.

I could imagine this Byzantine rump-state in Greece eventually becoming revived like the other Orthodox Christian states in the Balkans, but I think that the consequences aren’t necessarily physically that different from Greek independence OTL; what it does possibly mean, though, is that because there is a state continuity going back to that degree, you could end up with modern *Greece that identifies itself as being Romania and its people as Romans, instead of what we got OTL, wherein they self-identified as Hellas and its people as Hellenes, wherein the early Greek nationalists emphasized their antique predecessors rather than their medieval ones.

What does make it more unlikely I think is that part of the reason you had the rump states in the Balkans was because that territory was constantly contested by the Hungarians, Austrians, Polish-Lithuanians and, later, the Russians; the Ottomans weren’t able to establish consistent control in those regions. I think, to have a rump Roman state, you need to have - oddly enough - both a stronger and a weaker Ottoman Empire. One that‘s strong enough to take Constantinople a bit sooner, but weak enough that it can’t fully express its authority in OTL Greece and/or Trebizond.
 

Alex Richards

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Yes, as above, I can imagine a Greek-speaking Orthodox Christian rump state, possibly in modern OTL Greece, which has some kind of political continuity - possibly ruled by a major Byzantine noble family, which the Ottomans don’t bother to conquer properly, but I can’t imagine the Ottomans passing up on a city which was already known in all of the surrounding languages as just “The City”, and I can’t imagine the Ottomans tolerating a surviving rump state that still claims to be The Roman Empire for long if they can do anything about it. I think it’s also as above possible to imagine some kind of Trebizond surviving, though not the one that existed in the mid-15th century OTL.

I could imagine this Byzantine rump-state in Greece eventually becoming revived like the other Orthodox Christian states in the Balkans, but I think that the consequences aren’t necessarily physically that different from Greek independence OTL; what it does possibly mean, though, is that because there is a state continuity going back to that degree, you could end up with modern *Greece that identifies itself as being Romania and its people as Romans, instead of what we got OTL, wherein they self-identified as Hellas and its people as Hellenes, wherein the early Greek nationalists emphasized their antique predecessors rather than their medieval ones.

What does make it more unlikely I think is that part of the reason you had the rump states in the Balkans was because that territory was constantly contested by the Hungarians, Austrians, Polish-Lithuanians and, later, the Russians; the Ottomans weren’t able to establish consistent control in those regions. I think, to have a rump Roman state, you need to have - oddly enough - both a stronger and a weaker Ottoman Empire. One that‘s strong enough to take Constantinople a bit sooner, but weak enough that it can’t fully express its authority in OTL Greece and/or Trebizond.
I feel like a stronger Venice may be a precondition here as well- one which retains Crete and is a going force in the Aegean. Mainly because the Ottomans are probably more likely to tolerate a rump 'Romania' in the Peloponnese if they're still fighting over the Aegean on a regular basis, and having to actively defend places like Cyprus, Thessaloniki etc.
 
I outline some of the potential scenarios for this to happen in my forthcoming Sealion ebook (number 2 on Byzantium), 'Rampart of Christendom'. Broadly I agree with most of the above - the very militaristic and centralised nature of the Ottoman state, where like in the Roman Empire there was a large and potentially mutinous army and powerful generals to keep happy, meant that an expansionist and pugilistically aggressive adult Sultan was needed for stability and success. As long as Constantinople, whose fall to the forces of Islam had been spoken of in the Quran , was in existence as a Christian state close to the Ottoman capital it would be a target for any Sultan seeking glory and the Islamic credentials of its conquest. Even if the Ottoman state was broken up into equally balanced halves (eg by Timur in 1402) it was most likely that the ruler of one or other half (Europe, based at Adrianople/ Edirne, or Asia, based at Bursa in Bithynia) would eventually reunite it and/or take on Constantinople to prove his credentials as a warlord and a Moslem leader.

A big 'if' that gives the chance of Constantinople surviving in Christian hands long-term is the possibility of the Ottoman state staying divided, as the Timurid state in Persia/ Iraq did after 1405 - but in that case you need the European Turkish state to be in constant war with and unable to overrun Serbia plus a revived Bulgaria (and hampered at sea by Venice) , and the Asian state to be unable to reconquer Karaman in SE Anatolia or the restless Turcoman pastoral nomads of NE Anatolia to be able to defy the Ottoman army long-term (as backed up by the surviving White Ram Turks centred on Tabriz, ie no Safavid conquest of the Iran/ Iraq/Azerbaijan region from the 1490s). Also, logically, both a strong naval support 'corridor' to Constantinople - from a Genoa more determined to protect its Black Sea trade and its Crimean colony? - and a suviving Byzantine navy that could help keep the Ottoman fleet at bay and the Dardanelles open, which probably means an earlier Byzantine POD that has Andronicus II not giving up the fleet in the 1280s as too expensive and/or John VI Cantacuzene having the resources (more money and more refugee Byz Anatolian ports mariners) and the luck to rebuild the fleet in the late 1340s. In OTL he tried this but did not have enough money or sailors, which the Black Death made worse , and Genoa defeated his small squadron off the capital in order to keep its local maritime domination plus full control of the Bosphorus trade.

But if we butterfly the Black Death and the naval collapse, or we have a larger and richer population plus a better way of taxing the landed nobles to build up state resources, we could have a richer and better-armed state in Constantinople that can buy lots of Western cannons or hire engineers to build its own - and in that case it can hold the city walls and sink any approaching Ottoman fleets. Big 'ifs though - and I suggest that no 1204 catastrophe , the Ottomans being halted at the Dardanelles (no Byz civil wars in the 1340s as Andronicus III does not die at age c. 44 in 1341 or John Cantacuzene takes over at once when A dies and rules for c. 20 years), and a permanent Ottoman b reak-up in 1402 are all vital.

A loss of Constantinople - geographically very isolated and impossible to defend long-term with its OTL population and poverty - and retention of the Peloponnese, with a state based on Mistra, is more likely and viable, though again it would need more resources (eg a larger urban population and money to buy cannons and hire mercenaries) plus a helpful Venice and its huge fleet (if V is a long-term foe of the Ottomans and unable to trust or trade with the Sultans, eg after a major dispute leads to a furious Mehmed II executing the Venetian consul and top merchants). It would also help if the Ottomans are too busy fighting the Serbs or a surviving Bulgaria to take on the Byz 'Morea' state, eg if the Crusade of Varna is a major success in restoring Christian power in the NW and central Balkans and that keeps the Ottomans busy for decades - and if Murad II, more pacific by the later 1440s than Mehmed II was to be in the 1450s lasts longer and executes Mehmed for a 'plot' so a younger and less capable half-brother of Mehmed succeeds later. Again, the Ottomans will eventually get a restless and ambitious young Sultan who has a huge army and a need for glory and then the Morea is a prime target - so Hungary keeping Serbia in play , Venice dominating the seas, no Ottoman fleet, and a surviving White Ram state (or a more succesful Safavid one) plus a surviving Mameluke Sultanate are all needed. Then if the Byz have the firepower, troops, and revenue to hold the Hexamilion (or advance via Athens to hold Thermopylae) they can hold on for much longer - and survive as a Venetian local ally through the C16th and C17th if they are lucky.

Possibly if the capable and charismatic Constantine XI is not called off to Constantinople as Emperor (ie his brother John VIII, d 1448, lasts longer and has sons) but he not his feuding and feckless brothers Thomas and Demetrius are in charge in the Morea in the 1450s and 1460s - and C has sons too. That way, we can get a small 'Hellenic' state surviving until the OTL Ottoman decline, if dependent on Western naval help - and a core of surviving Byz aristocracy and a few successful Morean ports' merchant dynasties to lead the post-1821 Greek state? Logically the same 'Phanariot' Constantinopolitan Greek families who in OTL are top Ottoman vassals and are able to get governorships in Wallachia and Moldavia end up in this version ruling the Morean state - led by the Cantacuzenoi if the Paleologi die out?

As to Trebizond - even if it is more of a long-term commercial success in controlling the Black Sea trade (and has the major port of Sinope plus the Crimea?) it has a small, mainly mountainous hinterland and low population , with inland expansion difficult as there is no agricultural land here plus lots of small tribes of Turcoman nomads. Possibly it could survive if we have an Ottoman break-up and Trebizond is the major entrepot for the Silk Road trade so commercially powerful, ruled by a line of capable warlords who hire Turcoman cavalry to keep the Ottomans at bay, pay the West for cannons and naval help, and have a helpful neighbour state in Azerbaijan which sees the point of using them to keep the Ottomans busy?
 

Roger II

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Wouldn't butterflying the Black Death have major consequences all over the eastern med? You'd have probably a stronger Mameluk state (IIRC Egypt was notably hard-hit) which is probably making a killing in the Indian Ocean trade, I assume any number of heavily urbanized states are going to be more prosperous and stable, maybe parts of the Ilkhanate get another few years of life, etc etc.
 

OwenM

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What does make it more unlikely I think is that part of the reason you had the rump states in the Balkans was because that territory was constantly contested by the Hungarians, Austrians, Polish-Lithuanians and, later, the Russians; the Ottomans weren’t able to establish consistent control in those regions. I think, to have a rump Roman state, you need to have - oddly enough - both a stronger and a weaker Ottoman Empire. One that‘s strong enough to take Constantinople a bit sooner, but weak enough that it can’t fully express its authority in OTL Greece and/or Trebizond.
Delay the Timurid invasion but make it more successful somehow maybe? Bayezid takes Constantinople and then oh fuck....
 
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