If the Byzantine Empire would have survived up to the present-day, what it look like right now?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,735
SoCal
#1
If the Byzantine Empire would have survived up to the present-day, what it look like right now? Would it essentially be a Greater Greece?
 
Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#2
Well, it would be predominantly Greek-speaking, and.... predominantly Orthodox Christian? That's really all there is to say with any certainty. There are too many variables to make a proper estimation. Also, what period Byzantine Empire are you referring to? 8th century? 11th century? 15th century?
 
Likes: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,735
SoCal
#3
Well, it would be predominantly Greek-speaking, and.... predominantly Orthodox Christian? That's really all there is to say with any certainty. There are too many variables to make a proper estimation. Also, what period Byzantine Empire are you referring to? 8th century? 11th century? 15th century?
The Byzantine Empire's decline began after 1180 in real life; thus, let's have the Byzantine Empire avoid this decline and at least maintain the borders that it had in 1180.
 
Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#4
The Byzantine Empire's decline began after 1180 in real life; thus, let's have the Byzantine Empire avoid this decline and at least maintain the borders that it had in 1180.
How would the Byzantine Empire avoid the decline? In reality it was a large combination of internal and external factors over many years that causes its decline, it wasn't just any one thing. You'd have to completely change both the nature of the Byzantine Empire and all of its neighbours to ensure they would keep the same borders for 900 years. Then that's is just going into the realm of fantasy.
 
Likes: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,735
SoCal
#5
How would the Byzantine Empire avoid the decline? In reality it was a large combination of internal and external factors over many years that causes its decline, it wasn't just any one thing. You'd have to completely change both the nature of the Byzantine Empire and all of its neighbours to ensure they would keep the same borders for 900 years. Then that's is just going into the realm of fantasy.
Well, how was the Byzantine Empire largely able to avoid decline between 700 and 1180 in real life? (Yes, it had its weak moments, but it then proceeded to largely recover.)
 
Jan 2016
1,127
Victoria, Canada
#6
How would the Byzantine Empire avoid the decline? In reality it was a large combination of internal and external factors over many years that causes its decline, it wasn't just any one thing. You'd have to completely change both the nature of the Byzantine Empire and all of its neighbours to ensure they would keep the same borders for 900 years. Then that's is just going into the realm of fantasy.
That's a far too fatalist view in my opinion -- it wasn't really a large combination of factors at the root of the Empire's problems in the 13th-15th centuries, but a single, unique series of events: the Fourth Crusade. It's impossible to predict precisely what would happen without the catastrophes of 1204, but the Roman state would (in the short-medium term at least) almost certainly retain its established position as a great power of the Mediterranean, just as it did after previous episodes of instability and territorial contraction no less damaging than that of 1183-1203 (695-718 and 811-830 come to mind). Hell, even in our timeline the Empire in Anatolian exile had the resilience, leadership, and institutional strength to secure its borders, reconstitute its government, and enact a meteoric recovery, going -- over the space of half a century -- from a regional power to, again, one of the top dogs in Europe and the Mediterranean, even if the knock-on effects of the Mongol invasions, Andronikos II's inadequacy, and 1204's legacy of fragmentation, loss, and instability would make that return to form a relatively short-lived one. If the Romans had managed to avoid the troubles of the late 12th century in the first place, then a pre-determined decline is even more dubious to assume. I do agree that the Empire retaining the same borders would be incredibly unlikely, particularly in a modern context, but there's no real basis for making any assumptions about their contraction or expansion one way or another.
 
Jan 2016
1,127
Victoria, Canada
#7
Regarding the OP, it's really impossible to say -- even after the 1240's or so you would enter the realm of pure historical fiction, never mind the 21st century. If we have Manuel reign peacefully for 5-10 years longer and Alexios II assume the throne without issue as a competent young adult then I can easily imagine the Empire entering the 1190's in pretty much the same (excellent) shape as in the 1170's, but after that things just can't be predicted with any plausibility. Do the Normans invade, and if so how does it go?, How is the Third Crusade handled, and does its German contingent meet the same grim fate it did historically? Is the Fourth Crusade launched, and if so how is it handled?, Do the Bulgarians/Vlachs revolt, and do they succeed?, Do provincial cities continue to grow into competitors to Constantinople, and if so how are these centrifugal tendencies handled?, Do Cilicia and Antioch attempt to throw off the Roman yoke, as they did after the death of John II?, How do Komnenian dynastic politics evolve?, What happens to Hungary and the Crusader States, Roman clients under Manuel?, How does the project of Church union/reconciliation evolve?, etc., not to mention later events like the Mongol invasions and Sicilian Vespers. High medieval Mediterranean politics were just too volatile and multifaceted for their evolution in an alternate timeline to be reasonably predicted in any long term sense -- you could write a fun alt-history scenario by answering these questions in a way you find interesting, of course, but that's a different matter from more productive speculative history.
 
Last edited:

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,735
SoCal
#8
Regarding the OP, it's really impossible to say -- even after the 1240's or so you would enter the realm of pure historical fiction, never mind the 21st century. If we have Manuel reign peacefully for 5-10 years longer and Alexios II assume the throne without issue as a competent young adult then I can easily imagine the Empire entering the 1190's in pretty much the same (excellent) shape as in the 1170's, but after that things just can't be predicted with any plausibility. Do the Normans invade, and if so how does it go?, How is the Third Crusade handled, and does it meet the same grim fate it did historically? Is the Fourth Crusade launched, and if so how is it handled?, Do the Bulgarians/Vlachs revolt, and do they succeed?, Do provincial cities continue to grow into competitors to Constantinople, and if so how are these centrifugal tendencies handled?, Do Cilicia and Antioch attempt to throw off the Roman yoke, as they did after the death of John II?, How do Komnenian dynastic politics evolve?, What happens to Hungary and the Crusader States, Roman clients under Manuel?, How does the project of Church union/reconciliation evolve?, etc., not to mention later events like the Mongol invasions and Sicilian Vespers. High medieval Mediterranean politics were just too volatile and multifaceted for their evolution in an alternate timeline to be reasonably predicted in any long term sense -- you could write a fun alt-history scenario by answering these questions in a way you find interesting, of course, but that's a different matter from more productive speculative history.
Excellent points! As you said, after 1250 or so, a lot would really be up for grabs since it's very hard to project with certainty after that point in time.

Anyway, though, how do you think that Manuel would have handled the Fourth Crusaders had he lived until the 1200s?
 
Jan 2016
1,127
Victoria, Canada
#9
Anyway, though, how do you think that Manuel would have handled the Fourth Crusaders had he lived until the 1200s?
Well, he would be in his mid 80's, so not with his earlier energy, I assume, but in any case 1202-4 is already too far past the point of divergence to make any well-founded predictions -- among the most immediate issues to consider is that the continuing reign of Manuel may have prevented or postponed the fall of Jerusalem in the first place (he would have jumped at the chance to redeem his image as the leader of Christendom after Myriokephalon, a failed semi-Crusade not too consequential in reality but perceived as a disaster by the Latins/Germans), thus preventing, delaying, or at least altering the causes and forms of the 3rd and/or 4th Crusades. Additionally, the main cause for the derailment of the 4th Crusade was the 1202 war between Venice and Hungary over Zadar/Zara, in which the Crusaders fought on the Venetian side and got themselves excommunicated; Bela III of Hungary (d. 1196), though, was an appointee of Manuel and quasi-client who spent much of his adult life Constantinople before becoming king, and it was under his son Emeric that the war with Venice broke out. If the Romans and Hungarians had maintained an alliance of some kind into the 13th century (historically relations broke down under Alexios II's regency and especially the regime of Andronikos I), it's extremely unlikely the Venetians would have attempted to take Zara at all, given their reliance on Roman trade and limited military capabilities, and thus that they would have forced the Crusaders into attacking a Christian city. These are just a few of the elements which would complicate things into unpredictability, with others including diplomatic and religious relations with the Papacy, relations and possible conflicts with the Normans, and Bulgarian/Vlach discontent.
 
Likes: Futurist
Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#10
among the most immediate issues to consider is that the continuing reign of Manuel may have prevented or postponed the fall of Jerusalem in the first place (he would have jumped at the chance to redeem his image as the leader of Christendom
I find it very unlikely that he would have been able to have any effect on Jerusalem's status, one way or the other. If I recall correctly the Byzantines had fairly positive (or at least not negative) diplomatic relations with Saladin, seeing him as much less of a threat than the Seljuks were. I doubt that the Byzantines would have gone to war with him just to defend Jerusalem, a city with no strategic or economic benefits to anybody, and a city that they also had no interest in from a practical perspective (Emperor Alexius expressed frustration when the crusaders attacked the Fatamids to take Jerusalem rather than fighting solely the Seljuks). Sending an army to help the crusaders would not have benefited the Byzantines in any meaningful way, not least because the majority of the crusader states had little to no interest in maintaining good relations let alone an alliance with the Byzantines (with the exception of the complicated status of Antioch).
 
Likes: Futurist