What would you have done to save the Byzantine Empire if you were put in charge of it in 1300?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,247
SoCal
What would you have done to save the Byzantine Empire if you were put in charge of it in 1300? You have as much power as a Byzantine Emperor back then had but no more than that.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,971
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
I have read that Emperor Andronicus II reduced the size of the Byzantine Army in and after 1282 to reduce taxes and did so badly, by keeping relatively expensive and inefficient units and disbanding relatively cheap and efficient units. So one of the first things to do would be to reorganize the Byzantine army to be more effective and cost efficient and overall more powerful.

Strategically, one of the main goals should be to keep Turks out of Europe, which might mean going on the offensive in Asia to reconquer all the imperial lands which had been conquered by the Turks in the last 50 years. That should mean increasing the size and effectiveness of the Byzantine Navy.

I believe that by this time the various Turkish states had conquered almost all of Asia Minor, except for the Byzantine province of Bythnia, the Empire of Trebizond and the Kingdom of Lesser Armenia, and a few other, lesser places, so they were a clear and present danger right on the other side of the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles. So there was clear justification for fortifying the European sides of those shores and for building up the Byzantine Navy. So no other Christian realms should have been able to come up with any sort of excuses to justify trying to stop such an effort.

So I would begin to fortify the harbors of every fishing village and every port along the straits so that they could be closed to war ships. And I would fortify the land sides of every village and port with land walls. A century and a half later the Turks built castles with powerful cannons that could shoot cannonballs clear across the straits and sink any ships which tried to sail them without permission. So developing more advanced and longer range cannons would be an important program, but I don't know if it could work very fast. Developing war rockets similar to the Mysore war rockets or Congreve's war rockets, with ranges of a mile or two would be another program to try. Unfortunately in 1300 either program would have to start from almost nothing.

So the strategy might be to station ships along the straits and the Sea of Marmara to intercept all Turkish ships that try to sail through the straits or across them. And possibly to build a wall or stockade or plant dense forests along the entire shoreline between forts to greatly slow down any group of Turks who landed on the beaches.

In real history groups of Turkish mercenaries and allies fought for various sides in the Byzantine civil wars in the first part of the 14th century and became familiar with Europe. Then a strong earthquake in 1354 devastated the town of Gallipoli on the Gallipoli peninsula and collapsed its walls. The Ottoman Turks captured Gallipoli and nearby sites in 1354 and made it the base for their navy and the site for launching invasions of the Balkans. So establishing a stronger fort and city at Gallipli with more earthquake resistant buildings & walls and a more powerful garrison would be a good idea.

Since the Ottoman state was the one that eventually conquered the Byzantine Empire, destroying it in its infancy would be a primary goal. Around 1300 the long weakened Turkish Sultanate of Rum (Rome) that once ruled most of the Muslin areas in Asia Minor was walling apart and the various Turkish beyliks were becoming independent of it. Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, became became ruler of the tiny Ottoman beylik about 1280, began attacking Byzantine possessions, and may have proclaimed himself Sultan in 1299. He won his first significant victories against Byzantine forces in 1301 and 1302.

So if I became ruler of the Byzantine Empire about 1300 the first priority would be to build a more efficient military force and try to stop Osman's expansion into Bythnia and if possible force him back and preferably capture all his lands and abolish his state.

The next step would be to annex the coastal areas of the Baylik of Karesi to the west along the Sea of Mamara and the Dardanelles and the Aegean Sea. Then to annex the coastal areas of the Beylik of Candar to the east along the Black Sea. Then to annex the Aegean Sea coasts all the way south to where the coast reaches the Mediterranean Sea and turns east. In case those coastal areas were recaptured by Muslims I would round up all the Muslim fishermen, sailors, boat builders, and Shipwrights in every Muslim village, town, and city I conquered and kill them or transport them to Europe. Then the goal would be to extend control of the Black Sea coasts east ward to the borders of Trebizond and control of the Mediterranean Sea as far as borders of Lesser Armenia, and to extend control inland, hopefully as far as the Komnenos Dynasty managed to do so.

The goal would be to take control of all the sea coasts of Asia Minor from Muslim states so that any naval expedition to invade Europe couldn't come from turkey or involve Turks.

So that would have been my first concern as "Byzantine" ruler in 1300.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,913
Australia
Stir up trouble with the Ottoman nobility. If they are squabbling amongst themselves, they can't unite under one leader to attack you.
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,919
Question: what did the populations in the areas controlled by the Byzantine empire want ? Did they feel a sense of belonging or did they want to get away from it ?
What was the demography like ?

What were the population numbers of the byzantines vs the turks ?
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,971
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Stir up trouble with the Ottoman nobility. If they are squabbling amongst themselves, they can't unite under one leader to attack you.
You didn't notice that the OP asks what you would do to save the Byzantine Empire if you were in charge of it in 1300? IN 1300. REPEAT, IN THE YEAR AD 1300. At that time the Ottoman realm was still very small but already expanding. And I don't know if if there was any Ottoman nobility to stir up trouble amongst at that time, since just about noting is known about Ottoman society at that time.
 
Oct 2011
480
Croatia
First order of business would be to reintroduce, as much as possible, old thematic system. Second would be to prevent, if at all possible, Ottomans from gaining foothold in Europe. Also try to encite Seljuks against Ottomans.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,247
SoCal
I have read that Emperor Andronicus II reduced the size of the Byzantine Army in and after 1282 to reduce taxes and did so badly, by keeping relatively expensive and inefficient units and disbanding relatively cheap and efficient units. So one of the first things to do would be to reorganize the Byzantine army to be more effective and cost efficient and overall more powerful.
Good idea.

Strategically, one of the main goals should be to keep Turks out of Europe, which might mean going on the offensive in Asia to reconquer all the imperial lands which had been conquered by the Turks in the last 50 years. That should mean increasing the size and effectiveness of the Byzantine Navy.
Do the Byzantines actually have the necessary money and population for that, though?

I believe that by this time the various Turkish states had conquered almost all of Asia Minor, except for the Byzantine province of Bythnia, the Empire of Trebizond and the Kingdom of Lesser Armenia, and a few other, lesser places, so they were a clear and present danger right on the other side of the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles. So there was clear justification for fortifying the European sides of those shores and for building up the Byzantine Navy. So no other Christian realms should have been able to come up with any sort of excuses to justify trying to stop such an effort.
Did any Christian states actually oppose such an effort in real life, though?

So I would begin to fortify the harbors of every fishing village and every port along the straits so that they could be closed to war ships. And I would fortify the land sides of every village and port with land walls. A century and a half later the Turks built castles with powerful cannons that could shoot cannonballs clear across the straits and sink any ships which tried to sail them without permission. So developing more advanced and longer range cannons would be an important program, but I don't know if it could work very fast. Developing war rockets similar to the Mysore war rockets or Congreve's war rockets, with ranges of a mile or two would be another program to try. Unfortunately in 1300 either program would have to start from almost nothing.

So the strategy might be to station ships along the straits and the Sea of Marmara to intercept all Turkish ships that try to sail through the straits or across them. And possibly to build a wall or stockade or plant dense forests along the entire shoreline between forts to greatly slow down any group of Turks who landed on the beaches.

In real history groups of Turkish mercenaries and allies fought for various sides in the Byzantine civil wars in the first part of the 14th century and became familiar with Europe. Then a strong earthquake in 1354 devastated the town of Gallipoli on the Gallipoli peninsula and collapsed its walls. The Ottoman Turks captured Gallipoli and nearby sites in 1354 and made it the base for their navy and the site for launching invasions of the Balkans. So establishing a stronger fort and city at Gallipli with more earthquake resistant buildings & walls and a more powerful garrison would be a good idea.

Since the Ottoman state was the one that eventually conquered the Byzantine Empire, destroying it in its infancy would be a primary goal. Around 1300 the long weakened Turkish Sultanate of Rum (Rome) that once ruled most of the Muslin areas in Asia Minor was walling apart and the various Turkish beyliks were becoming independent of it. Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, became became ruler of the tiny Ottoman beylik about 1280, began attacking Byzantine possessions, and may have proclaimed himself Sultan in 1299. He won his first significant victories against Byzantine forces in 1301 and 1302.

So if I became ruler of the Byzantine Empire about 1300 the first priority would be to build a more efficient military force and try to stop Osman's expansion into Bythnia and if possible force him back and preferably capture all his lands and abolish his state.

The next step would be to annex the coastal areas of the Baylik of Karesi to the west along the Sea of Mamara and the Dardanelles and the Aegean Sea. Then to annex the coastal areas of the Beylik of Candar to the east along the Black Sea. Then to annex the Aegean Sea coasts all the way south to where the coast reaches the Mediterranean Sea and turns east. In case those coastal areas were recaptured by Muslims I would round up all the Muslim fishermen, sailors, boat builders, and Shipwrights in every Muslim village, town, and city I conquered and kill them or transport them to Europe. Then the goal would be to extend control of the Black Sea coasts east ward to the borders of Trebizond and control of the Mediterranean Sea as far as borders of Lesser Armenia, and to extend control inland, hopefully as far as the Komnenos Dynasty managed to do so.

The goal would be to take control of all the sea coasts of Asia Minor from Muslim states so that any naval expedition to invade Europe couldn't come from turkey or involve Turks.

So that would have been my first concern as "Byzantine" ruler in 1300.
Good ideas. Also, where in Europe would you transport the Muslims to (in your third-to-last paragraph here)?

In addition, what would you have done differently in comparison to your list here if you didn't actually have the benefit of hindsight?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,247
SoCal
Question: what did the populations in the areas controlled by the Byzantine empire want ? Did they feel a sense of belonging or did they want to get away from it ?
What was the demography like ?

What were the population numbers of the byzantines vs the turks ?
My educated guess is that the people in western Anatolia and Greece largely considered themselves Romans or at least Greeks during this time. Ditto for the people in the Empire of Trebizond. Islamization in western Anatolia and Trebizond only occurred after those territories actually fell to the Turks.