Had the Byzantine Empire survived, just how much could it have expanded in the industrial era?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
19,936
SoCal
#1
Had the Byzantine Empire survived, just how much could it have expanded in the industrial era? For the record, I am assuming a point of departure (from real life) sometime before 1180 here, since that's when things for the Byzantine Empire really began going downhill.

For what it's worth, I personally think that, in the industrial era, the Byzantines are definitely at the very least going to make a huge move to reconquer the interior of Anatolia so that roads and especially railroads could be built there.
 

Solidaire

Ad Honorem
Aug 2009
5,477
Athens, Greece
#2
Had the Byzantine Empire survived, just how much could it have expanded in the industrial era? For the record, I am assuming a point of departure (from real life) sometime before 1180 here, since that's when things for the Byzantine Empire really began going downhill.

For what it's worth, I personally think that, in the industrial era, the Byzantines are definitely at the very least going to make a huge move to reconquer the interior of Anatolia so that roads and especially railroads could be built there.
The surviving idea of the Byzantine Empire did certainly try to reconquer parts of Anatolia in the early 20th century, with Constantinople always being the epicentre of such long-fostered dreams.

Megali Idea - Wikipedia
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,843
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#4
If the eastern Roman or "Byzantine" empire survived until the industrial age, it would probably be somewhat larger than a tiny city state and somewhat smaller than the Roman Empire in the reign of Trajan or Septimius Severus.

So possibly defining the size of the surviving Empire in the industrial age might be necessary to decide how much conquering and expanding it might possibly be willing and able to do during the industrial age.

The OP mentions a point of departure before 1180. If events go better during the latter part of the reign of Manuel I, he might have reconquered quite a bit of Anatolia during his reign. And if he was followed by powerful and successful emperors, they might perhaps have reconquered eastern Anatolia and built forts and long barrier walls to cut off further invasions by eastern nomads, and begun gradually expanding inwards in Anatolia, expelling or converting the Muslim populations.

Then of course the Mongol Invasions would come. In our history they didn't fight the much smaller Empire that existed, but did fight and defeat the Sultanate of Rum that ruled most of Anatolia at the time.

So possibly the Empire would have been badly defeated by the Mongols and reduced to a smaller size than it had before the invasion. How that reduced size would compare to the actual size of the empire at that time in real history is unknown.

or maybe the Empire would avoid such a fate by submitting to the Mongols, or defeating invading mongol armies, or other methods.

In any case, even if the Empire shrank considerably during the Mongol invasions, its history had several alternating periods of defeat & contraction and victory & expansion. In real history the latest period when the Empire expanded (though in Europe, not in Asia) was about a century after the Mongol invasions, so that would give time for the Mongols to weaken and the Empire to begin reconquering Anatolia again. Thus it was quite possible that the empire would have finished reconquering Anatolia and assimilating the population before the industrial age mentioned in the OP even began.

And many possible courses of events might follow from that.
 
Likes: Futurist
Apr 2017
1,387
U.S.A.
#5
If the Byzantine empire did survive until the industrial age it would be backward in comparison to western Europe. Look at the Ottoman empire (which occupied the same geographic area), it became the "old man of Europe." The much smaller surviving byzantine empire would be even worse. Even if the Turkish/arab states didn't organize any resistance against them, they would have to contend with the Persians (who were a great threat to the Ottomans up to the 19th century). Pretty much the best this surviving Byzantine empire could hope for would be comparable to the Ottoman Empire or be like the various Italian states before unification. So if for some reason they did have an advantage against whatever power existed in Anatolia, they would be relatively poor by comparison to the rest of Europe (like Italy in 1870).

This leaves a bigger question as to what happens to the Balkans without the Ottomans to conquer them. Are they still around? Conquered by the Byzantines? Or conquered by the rest of Europe?
 
Likes: Futurist

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,843
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#6
If the Byzantine empire did survive until the industrial age it would be backward in comparison to western Europe. Look at the Ottoman empire (which occupied the same geographic area), it became the "old man of Europe." The much smaller surviving byzantine empire would be even worse. Even if the Turkish/arab states didn't organize any resistance against them, they would have to contend with the Persians (who were a great threat to the Ottomans up to the 19th century). Pretty much the best this surviving Byzantine empire could hope for would be comparable to the Ottoman Empire or be like the various Italian states before unification. So if for some reason they did have an advantage against whatever power existed in Anatolia, they would be relatively poor by comparison to the rest of Europe (like Italy in 1870).

This leaves a bigger question as to what happens to the Balkans without the Ottomans to conquer them. Are they still around? Conquered by the Byzantines? Or conquered by the rest of Europe?
If the departure point is before 1180, Serbia and Bulgaria might not revolt against the eastern Roman or "Byzantine" empire in 1185, let alone successfully revolt.

IMHO the "Byzantine" empire should thus rule all the Balkans and reconquer all of Anatolia within a few centuries after the departure point and a few centuries before the industrial revolution even gets started. So in the year 1500, for example, the "Byzantine" empire might be as large and powerful as it was in about 1050, or as the Ottoman empire in 1500. And what would happen after that is unknown.

But if the "Byzantine" empire in 1500 was that large and powerful, it could expand a lot, including much further into Europe. Since it was a Christian state, its expansion would not have been considered as evil by Christians as the expansion of the Muslim Ottoman state was. Would the "Byzantines" be considered schismatics or heretics and almost as bad as Muslims? All the powerful emperors after the Great Schism in 1054 were interested in ending the schism and often negotiated with the popes. If the emperors continued to be as powerful as Manuel I or Basil II the popes might be more reasonable and agree to reunion on terms that wouldn't anger the "Byzantine" population and make them eager to repudiate the terms.

Even with the schismatic status of the "Byzantine" empire, Catholic and western Europe did launch several unsuccessful crusades to assist the empire against the Ottomans.

I note that the Ottoman Empire was usually successful in its wars with European powers until about 1600 or so. The defeat at Lepanto in 1571 restricted Ottoman naval superiority to the eastern Mediterranean. The Long Turkish War of 1593-1606 resulted in a stalemate. The Ottomans continued to win most of their wars against Europeans until the Great Turkish War of 1683-1700. Then the Ottomans began to lose most of their wars with Europeans, though they still managed to win some of them.

If the surviving "Byzantine" empire is not considered schismatic and has fairly good relations with western Europe, it may be far more receptive to new ideas and technologies from Europe during the Age of Exploration, the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Age than the Ottoman Empire was. Thus it may be less backward and more advanced during the last few centuries than the Ottoman Empire was, and thus less easy to be defeated by European powers.
 
Apr 2017
1,387
U.S.A.
#7
If the departure point is before 1180, Serbia and Bulgaria might not revolt against the eastern Roman or "Byzantine" empire in 1185, let alone successfully revolt.

IMHO the "Byzantine" empire should thus rule all the Balkans and reconquer all of Anatolia within a few centuries after the departure point and a few centuries before the industrial revolution even gets started. So in the year 1500, for example, the "Byzantine" empire might be as large and powerful as it was in about 1050, or as the Ottoman empire in 1500. And what would happen after that is unknown.

But if the "Byzantine" empire in 1500 was that large and powerful, it could expand a lot, including much further into Europe. Since it was a Christian state, its expansion would not have been considered as evil by Christians as the expansion of the Muslim Ottoman state was. Would the "Byzantines" be considered schismatics or heretics and almost as bad as Muslims? All the powerful emperors after the Great Schism in 1054 were interested in ending the schism and often negotiated with the popes. If the emperors continued to be as powerful as Manuel I or Basil II the popes might be more reasonable and agree to reunion on terms that wouldn't anger the "Byzantine" population and make them eager to repudiate the terms.

Even with the schismatic status of the "Byzantine" empire, Catholic and western Europe did launch several unsuccessful crusades to assist the empire against the Ottomans.

I note that the Ottoman Empire was usually successful in its wars with European powers until about 1600 or so. The defeat at Lepanto in 1571 restricted Ottoman naval superiority to the eastern Mediterranean. The Long Turkish War of 1593-1606 resulted in a stalemate. The Ottomans continued to win most of their wars against Europeans until the Great Turkish War of 1683-1700. Then the Ottomans began to lose most of their wars with Europeans, though they still managed to win some of them.

If the surviving "Byzantine" empire is not considered schismatic and has fairly good relations with western Europe, it may be far more receptive to new ideas and technologies from Europe during the Age of Exploration, the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Age than the Ottoman Empire was. Thus it may be less backward and more advanced during the last few centuries than the Ottoman Empire was, and thus less easy to be defeated by European powers.
Good points, but a few concerns.
How do you know Hungary wouldn't conquer part of the Balkans?
Even if the Byzantines remained strong, it doesn't mean it would last forever, look at Poland.
By 1180 turks had already began settling in asia minor, the byzantines might be able to assimilate them but its easily possible they couldn't.

Potential enemies of this continuing Byzantine state:
Bulgarians and Serbs (who may rebel at some point, possibly with outside help).
Hungary (without the turks to distract them they may expand south).
Russia (Without the Ottomans to block them, they may expand into byzantine territory).
Mongols (in real life they crushed the developing ottoman state for half a century).
Crusaders (may still turn on the byzantines at some point).
Turks (still there and strong even if not unified under Ottomans).
Persians (if crush the turks, opens the door for them).
Egypt (without Ottomans to stop them may expand up to Anatolia).
Venice (in real life took much of the Byzantines territory, would probably continue).

Any scenario will need to consider these enemies.
 
Likes: Futurist
Jan 2016
1,137
Victoria, Canada
#8
I think the likely ramifications of the survival of the Roman state in its Middle Byzantine form through even the 13th-17th centuries are far too great to make any predictions about its place in an industrialized world. The Roman Empire of the Middle Byzantine period was absolutely not some sort of Ottoman Empire v. 0.1 -- it was a broadly mono-ethnic nation-state operating (somewhat less under the Komnenians, but still to a significant extent) on republican principles, not a multi-ethnic dynastic empire; it was Christian, not Muslim; it was a Roman polity intricately tied with Western Europe (and heavily imitated by it), culturally, politically, and economically, not the Islamic world; it was receptive to outside influence, and consistently very quick to adopt new (especially military) technologies; it had a strong tradition of military innovation (flamethrowers, counterweight trebuches, etc.), most often actively sponsored by the Roman government; it pursued economic and social policies more conducive to stable rural population growth, particularly in Anatolia; it preferred secure frontiers closer to home to risky, far-reaching conquest; and its aristocracy, especially by the 12th century, had developed an obsession with the classical Greco-Roman past and its revival, anticipating and complimenting the Italian renaissance. And that, of course, isn't to mention the very real possibility of a partial or full religious reconciliation with Rome, attempted on many occasions historically but made much more difficult by the Fourth Crusade, as well as the closely connected possibility of being recognized as the legitimate Empire of the Romans by the Papacy (as almost happened in reality under Manuel); none of which is to even touch on the knock-on effects of Roman survival in general on Christians and Christianity in Asia and Africa

In sum, a surviving Roman state on a Middle Byzantine model would almost certainly be an integral, leading element of the broader Late Medieval and Early Modern European/Mediterranean geopolitical, cultural, and technological world, as it had been for over a millennium, with enormous, exponentially increasing consequences in all three areas as the centuries went by. For a real-world example which well illustrates this point, note that the amendments to the Julian Calendar which would turn it into what we call the Gregorian Calendar were actually first invented and proposed by the Byzantine astronomer, philosopher, and historian Nikephoros Gregoras in 1324 but were rejected by the imperial administration because of the political instability of the time, only to be independently rediscovered and implemented over 250 years later under Pope Gregory XIII -- that such an important innovation would have likely been introduced over a quarter of a millennium earlier than in our timeline had Byzantine political fortunes been slightly better should give an idea of how sweeping the changes in the OP's scenario could be. That isn't to say, of course, that technology in general would necessarily be much or any more advanced than in our timeline, but the Romans would likely have been leading the technological charge as much as any other people, with wide-reaching consequences for technological dissemination and comparative advancement across the Old World. The Romans weren't any less prone to producing genius scholars, engineers, proto-scientists, writers, philosophers, etc. than the rest of Europe, and if they continued to thrive they would not have patiently waited for all the big names in Western European science and culture to come to the fore before introducing their own ideas and innovations. We should not assume, on a teleological basis, that European history in our timeline was any less effected by the Fourth Crusade and permanent Ottoman conquest of Romania than another timeline would be by a sacking and permanent Islamic conquest of Italy and Iberia, likewise Christian, Roman-influenced regions with a similar combined population -- without the former events, there would have very likely been close to as many (or perhaps even more) Early Modern Roman equivalents to your da Vincis, Michelangelos, Brunelleschis, Machiavellis, Galileos, Velasquezes, and de Cervantes (as even existed historically, to a significant extent, up to the end of the 15th century), some potentially, like Gregoras with his calendar and Kallinikos with his flamethrower, decades or centuries before what we would consider their time. There are, then, a million unpredictable ways history could have played out in the thread's scenario, but I can't see any of them ending up with the course of Roman (especially cultural, social, demographic, technological, etc.) history somehow even very broadly mirroring that of the Ottoman Empire, an entity fundamentally different on almost every conceivable non-superficial level, nor, thus, of (especially south/eastern) European, West Asian, and North/East African history in general going down any sort of familiar or at all predictable path through the Early Modern period, never mind the Industrial era.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
19,936
SoCal
#9
I think the likely ramifications of the survival of the Roman state in its Middle Byzantine form through even the 13th-17th centuries are far too great to make any predictions about its place in an industrialized world. The Roman Empire of the Middle Byzantine period was absolutely not some sort of Ottoman Empire v. 0.1 -- it was a broadly mono-ethnic nation-state operating (somewhat less under the Komnenians, but still to a significant extent) on republican principles, not a multi-ethnic dynastic empire; it was Christian, not Muslim; it was a Roman polity intricately tied with Western Europe (and heavily imitated by it), culturally, politically, and economically, not the Islamic world; it was receptive to outside influence, and consistently very quick to adopt new (especially military) technologies; it had a strong tradition of military innovation (flamethrowers, counterweight trebuches, etc.), most often actively sponsored by the Roman government; it pursued economic and social policies more conducive to stable rural population growth, particularly in Anatolia; it preferred secure frontiers closer to home to risky, far-reaching conquest; and its aristocracy, especially by the 12th century, had developed an obsession with the classical Greco-Roman past and its revival, anticipating and complimenting the Italian renaissance. And that, of course, isn't to mention the very real possibility of a partial or full religious reconciliation with Rome, attempted on many occasions historically but made much more difficult by the Fourth Crusade, as well as the closely connected possibility of being recognized as the legitimate Empire of the Romans by the Papacy (as almost happened in reality under Manuel); none of which is to even touch on the knock-on effects of Roman survival in general on Christians and Christianity in Asia and Africa
Was there actually any realistic possibility of a reconciliation with Rome before 1204? I mean, the Byzantines weren't actually desperate before 1204--and even when they became desperate later on, they still refused to reconcile with Rome (even though the Fourth Crusade was no longer in living memory by then).

Also, didn't the Byzantines have ethnic diversity in the Balkans due to their rule over the Bulgarians, Serbs, Albanians, and Croats? Granted, the Byzantines became more homogeneous shortly before 1204, but still.

In addition, wasn't one factor that prevented full Byzantine-Western European scientific interactions and exchanges the fact that Byzantines wrote in Greek while Western Europeans wrote in Latin? I mean, it's kind of hard to share one's research if one doesn't even speak a common language.

In sum, a surviving Roman state on a Middle Byzantine model would almost certainly be an integral, leading element of the broader Late Medieval and Early Modern European/Mediterranean geopolitical, cultural, and technological world, as it had been for over a millennium, with enormous, exponentially increasing consequences in all three areas as the centuries went by. For a real-world example which well illustrates this point, note that the amendments to the Julian Calendar which would turn it into what we call the Gregorian Calendar were actually first invented and proposed by the Byzantine astronomer, philosopher, and historian Nikephoros Gregoras in 1324 but were rejected by the imperial administration because of the political instability of the time, only to be independently rediscovered and implemented over 250 years later under Pope Gregory XIII -- that such an important innovation would have likely been introduced over a quarter of a millennium earlier than in our timeline had Byzantine political fortunes been slightly better should give an idea of how sweeping the changes in the OP's scenario could be.
Maybe I'm naive, but this doesn't sound like that much of an accomplishment. After all, Russia wasn't hurt by it failing to convert to the Gregorian calendar until 1918, was it?

That isn't to say, of course, that technology in general would necessarily be much or any more advanced than in our timeline, but the Romans would likely have been leading the technological charge as much as any other people, with wide-reaching consequences for technological dissemination and comparative advancement across the Old World. The Romans weren't any less prone to producing genius scholars, engineers, proto-scientists, writers, philosophers, etc. than the rest of Europe, and if they continued to thrive they would not have patiently waited for all the big names in Western European science and culture to come to the fore before introducing their own ideas and innovations. We should not assume, on a teleological basis, that European history in our timeline was any less effected by the Fourth Crusade and permanent Ottoman conquest of Romania than another timeline would be by a sacking and permanent Islamic conquest of Italy and Iberia, likewise Christian, Roman-influenced regions with a similar combined population -- without the former events, there would have very likely been close to as many (or perhaps even more) Early Modern Roman equivalents to your da Vincis, Michelangelos, Brunelleschis, Machiavellis, Galileos, Velasquezes, and de Cervantes (as even existed historically, to a significant extent, up to the end of the 15th century), some potentially, like Gregoras with his calendar and Kallinikos with his flamethrower, decades or centuries before what we would consider their time. There are, then, a million unpredictable ways history could have played out in the thread's scenario, but I can't see any of them ending up with the course of Roman (especially cultural, social, demographic, technological, etc.) history somehow even very broadly mirroring that of the Ottoman Empire, an entity fundamentally different on almost every conceivable non-superficial level, nor, thus, of (especially south/eastern) European, West Asian, and North/East African history in general going down any sort of familiar or at all predictable path through the Early Modern period, never mind the Industrial era.
Interesting points.

BTW, I find it interesting that the Byzantines might have experienced a decline in their intellectual and scientific output in per capita terms in the centuries before 1204:

Intellectual Production in the Byzantine Empire