Alternative History

The 12th century saw the growth of the European kingdoms and the harshest conflicts between Christians and Muslims.


  1. After unifying Nubia Basileios needed to secure the Red Sea coast. So starting in 1101 he began conducting campaigns against the nomadic Beja tribes by the Red Sea coast, known in Western sources as the Blemmyes. The Blemmyes were quickly overwhelmed and by the beginning of 1102 Basileios had a large and extensive Red Sea coast. He immediately began construction fortifications and new cities in the region, settling them with Nubians and Christianizing the Blemmyes, of whom a large part were still pagans. He also began to ally with the also Miaphysite Emperor of Ethiopia Kedus Harbe and exchanging letters with the Coptic Pope of Alexandria, the symbolic figurehead of the African Miaphysites. He began his first raids into the Fatimid territories (which is his POD, together with his conquests of Alodia and the Blemmyes) in 1105. This also marks the beginning of the increase of both Catholic and Byzantine mentions of the Miaphysites at the time.
  2. In 1108 Basileios sent a envoy to the King of Jerusalem Baldwin I. In the documents, including letters written to the Jerusalemite Crusaders, Basileios refers to himself as; Basileios, son of Georgios, King over all of Nubia, Makuria, Alodia, Nobatia, Lord of the Beja and in Dongola, Defender of the Cross. Even though the first years of communications between the two realms were strained, since the Catholic Church viewed the Miaphysites as heretics, in 1114 Basileios and Baldwin launched a joint attack on the Fatimids, which resulted in the Kingdom of Jerusalem conquering the Sinai Peninsula, while the Nubians expanded a bit on the Red Sea coast. This was vital as Nubia and Ethiopia now finally had direct oversea, access to the rest of Christendom in almost 500 years and trade between them and the other Christians, very sparse before, intensified dramatically.
  3. Back in Europe King Radovan of Croatia died in 1115 and was succeeded by his son Dragoslav. As Croatia did not enter into a union with Hungary as in the OTL, Hungary never became entangled into the affairs of the Mediterranean and South-east Europe, so the Arpads looked to the east to expand their territories. The Hungarian kings Coloman and his son and successor Stephen II launched a series of military expeditions beyond the Carpathians and by 1120 they managed to conquer most of what will later become known as Wallachia and acquire a small stretch of the Black Sea coast for Hungary. Most of Moldavia would be subjected by the following year. The mostly Romanian population, Orthodox at the time, became subjected to a campaign of proselytization by Catholic priests. This led Hungary into a conflict with the Byzantines and the Cumans, which would shape Hungarian politics for quite some time.
  4. In the Caucasus, Bonyak's successor Oraz, who married an unknown Russian princess, managed to solidify Cuman control of the region and subdue to Alans, which led to a campaign of Christianization of the Caucasus native ethnicities. Cumans began to increasingly intermarry with the much larger Rus', Greek, Caucasus and Gothic populations which they ruled over and, coupled with the increasing rate of Cuman Christianization, this led to a Hungarian model of assimilation, so by the second half of the 12th century most of the population of Cumania racially looked completely European, but the Cuman language spread and became dominant in most of the country by the mid-13th century. In 1130 the Autochepalous Patriarchate of Cumania was established, with Gabriel, a Georgian, as it's first Patriarch. By this time the last remnants of nomadism disappeared from Cumania and the kingdom became completely sedentary. Even though the Cuman language remained official and mother tongue of the ruler, Greek was also used and the Cuman court increasingly copied the Byzantine court in tradition and governance, leading to very close integration of Cumania with the Greeks to the south. A modified Cuman version of the Hellenic script was introduced and the first written documents in Cuman date from this period. The Cuman Greek alphabet remains Cumania's official script to this day. The Cuman rulers also abandoned the Turkish title of Khagan and began using a Cumanised version of the Greek title Basileios, so the state shall be addressed as the Cuman Kingdom not Khanate, from now on.
  5. In 1135 Ivan I, son and successor to Dragoslav, clashed with the Serbs of Dioclea over the wider area of southern Dalmatia up to the Bay of Kotor. The far larger and more powerful Croatia easily defeated the Diocleans and by 1137 Croatian control extended all the way to the city of Ulcinj. The Byzantines, unable to retake their former possessions on the east Adriatic finally gave up on their claims on it and the 1140 Treaty of Ragusa confirmed Croatia as the sole master of the eastern Adriatic shores. Dioclea would be conquered by Rasica some decades later and a new, more powerful Serbian state would start to clash with both Croatia and the Greeks.
  6. In 1136 the Cuman Kingdom strengthened and secured it's hold over Moldavia, by defeating Hungary at the Battle of Galati, after a revolt of Orthodox Romanians against Hungarian rule erupted there the previous year. King Oraz attempted to conquer Wallachia and form a direct land link with Byzantium in the western Black Sea coast, but the Hungarians managed to repel him. A native Romanian, called Stephen was granted Moldavia, as a subject of the Cumanian crown.
  7. By the mid-12th century large groups of Germans from the HRE started to migrate to the frontier Catholic lands in Bohemia, Hungary, Poland and Croatia, as was in the OTL.
  8. Ivan I, who granted both the Templars and the Hospitallers vast holdings in Croatia, went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1139, and had, upon his return, ordered that all Croatian knights and pilgrims that went to the Holy Land and afterwards returned home and did not join one of the Holy Orders or stayed to become subjects of the King of Jerusalem, would have to join the Brothership of Saint Sebastian or pay heavy taxes for life, the aforementioned order was a lay order which he founded in Jerusalem and which will impact Croatian history later. This brought the Croatian crown large revenues from taxes, since most Croatians returned home after going to the Levant, given the much more violent and unstable nature of life in the direct battleground of Christendom and the Islamic Ummah, as compared to the peace in Croatia.
  9. Yelu Dashi, Khan of the Sinic Qara Khitai Buddhists defeats the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Qatwan and conquers Transoxiana, as he did in the OTL.
  10. In 1145 Georgios IV, son of Basileios, conquered Aswan from the Fatimids, marking the first time in half a millennia that a Christian state controlled a part of Egypt. The Isma'ili Shia Fatimids, faced by hostility on all sides and ruling a population which in most part did not follow their faith, found themselves in a increasingly difficult position to defend their borders from the expanding Nubians.
  11. Starting from 1147 to 1150 the Second Crusade played out as in the OTL and the County of Edessa was conquered by the Zengids.
  12. In 1153 King of Cumania Alpra-Alpar attempted to invade Georgia but was defeated at the Siege of Tiblisi. Soon afterwards the Alans rebelled and a independent Alan kingdom was formed by 1155, which would sway bettwen the influences of Georgia and Cumania. This also served to integrate the already Orthodox Alans further into Orthodox Europe.
  13. Hungary invaded the Byzantine Empire in 1158 and managed to take the wider region of the city of Vidin, in northern Bulgaria. This prompted Uroš II and Desa, the two Serbian brothers which ruled the Grand Principality of Rascia, but were fighting among each other, to reconcile and seek closer ties with Byzantium, since they feared further Catholic expansion. Emperor Manuel (their enemy in the OTL) allowed them to subdue the Dioclean realm to the south and in 1160 the brothers jointly proclaimed themselves as the co-Kings of Serbia and the Maritime Lands, but were treated by Manuel as vassals and they formally agreed for the new Serbian kingdom to become a Byzantine client-state after Manuel granted them the entirety of Byzantine possessions around the Morava River, including the city of Niš, which they made their capital.
  14. Sometime in 1162, in the vast Mongolian steppes, a son was born to Chief Yesugei of the Kiyad Clan and his wife Hoelun and they named him Temujin.
  15. Ivan II inherited the crown of Croatia in 1163, but had to deal with the Venetians that had conquered the city of Zadar in the last year of his fathers reign, he would go on to lead a number of sieges and would only be able to retake the city in 1172. In 1165 he married Nada Šubić, daughter of Bogdanac, count of Bribir. In 1169 he made his half-brother, Ivan I's bastard son Vuk the head of the Brothership of Saint Sebastian.
  16. In 1169 the Fatimid Caliph al-Adid appointed the Sunni Kurd Saladin as Grand Vizier. However, unlike in the OTL, he almost immediately usurped the realm, since Saladin realized the danger posed by the Nubians to the south so by early 1170 the entire Fatimid royal family lay dead and Saladin proclaimed himself as Sultan. This did leave Egypt in a unstable state of affairs and seizing on the opportunity, the new Nubian King Moses Georgios started discussions with Jerusalem and the Papacy for a joint Catholic-Miaphysite Crusade on Egypt.
  17. In 1173, much earlier than in the OTL, after three years of negotiations, Pope Alexander III announced the Third Crusade, and the religious leaders of the African Miaphysites, lead by the Coptic Pope, who since 1140 resided in Nubia to avoid persecutions, announced a holy war as well. The Third Crusade or the Crusade of the Two Churches as it became known, would prove to be a decisive military encounter bettwen Christendom and Islam for centuries to come. Unlike in the OTL the Papacy uses extensive propaganda around Europe and this works so this Crusade turns out to be the most massive one yet, with the Holy Roman Emperor and the Kings of France, Denmark, Hungary and Croatia, as well as the Polish Prince Casimir Piast and the English Prince of the Angevin Empire Richard, called the Lionheart, joining the Crusade themselves. In Nubia representatives of the Armenian King of Cilicia and the Armenian Miaphysite Church meet their Eat African counterparts for the first time in centuries and as a result the Military Order of Saint Anthony is founded as the first international Miaphysite military order. A Coptic refugee from Egypt, named Binyamin, is elected as the first Grandmaster of the Anthoninian Order. The Orthodox realms, although not participating in the Crusade, freely allow self-created religious militias from their lands to join with the Crusaders.
  18. Saladin and the Zengids formed an alliance, unlike in the OTL, to try and defeat the Crusaders. Saladin strikes first and employing chevauchee tactics quickly retakes the Sinai Peninsula. He defeats the armies of the Kingdom of Jerusalem at the Battle of Beersheba and the joint Ayyubid-Zengid force besieges the city of Jerusalem. At the same time the first large army, numbering over 20,000 men, arrives from Europe into the port of Antioch, led by King Ivan II of Croatia and King Bela III of Hungary. Joined by Antiochian forces they besiege Aleppo in early December of 1173.
  19. The forces of the HRE march through Byzantine territory and as in the OTL they defeat the Seljuks at the Battle of Iconium, but in a break from the OTL the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa does not die, while bathing in the Saleph River, so the German armies arrive and join up with the rest of the Crusaders at Aleppo on Christmas Eve, 1173.
  20. Jerusalem falls to Saladin on the 14 of January, 1174. Saladin beheads the 13 year old King of Jerusalem Baldwin IV (who just inherited the throne from his late father Amalric) and crucifies his corpse, sending it on a parade around the cities of the Ayyubid and Zengid realms. Most of the reminder of the Jerusalemite Kingdom fell in under two months. Most of the Catholic nobility of that realm is executed by Saladin, including the entire royal family. The fall of the Holy City and the treatment of the young king's corpse and the executions of the Jerusalemite nobility shock Christendom and deal a significant demoralizing blow to the Crusading armies. Aleppo falls to the Crusaders two weeks after Jerusalem and the vengeful Europeans commit a massacre of it's inhabitants. The city is annexed by the Principality of Antioch.
  21. The joint armies of Nubia and Ethiopia, led by the Anthoninian Knights, start to push into Upper Egypt and defeat the Ayyubid armies at the Battle of Thebes, taking the land around the Nile up to Asyut, which falls in May. Saladin's forces manage to stabilise the frontier and prevent the Miaphysites from entering Lower Egypt. The rest of the European kings arrived in the Holy Land by the end of 1174 and on Christmas of that year the full 100,000 men strong Catholic army amassed at Beirut.
  22. Capitalising on his success Saladin staged a series of events which would see all of the Zengid leaders dead by the March of 1175, so he managed to take over Syria and Mesopotamia several years earlier than in the OTL.
  23. As the war progresses both the Christians and the Muslims become more and more cruel and oppressive towards people on the territories they occupy who follow some other faith. Progress on both sides is slow throughout 1175 to 1180.
  24. The Crusaders manage to take Gaza on February 2, 1176. Saladin successfully manages to integrate the Hejaz, Yemen, Oman, Basra and Libya into his empire, which is now significantly larger than in the OTL. Even the Bedouin chiefs of Najd swear fealty to him. Saladin's armies retake Aleppo in July.
  25. The Byzantine Empire loses the Battle of Myriokephalon against the Seljuks of Rum, on September 17th, as it did in the OTL.
  26. The Miaphysites spend the majority of 1176, 1177 and 1178 consolidating their forces. In early August of 1179 they conduct their first forays into Upper Egypt, but fail to permanently take any settlements. Saladin starts to clash with the Maghrebi Almohads, who were Mahdists and thus considered heretics by the Sunnis.
  27. In the meantime in Eastern Europe, decades of Greek, Cuman, Georgian and Russian missionary presence in the vast steppes of Central Asia started to produce results. The majority of the Kipchak khans were converted to Orthodox Christianity by 1180. Tengri elements within the Buddhist Qara Khitai state, which was already in a period of decline, also start to accept Orthodox Christianity. Thus the nomadic tribes of the Eurasian steppes started to be partially integrated into the eastern half of the European Civilization. This also helped to revitalize the small Nestorian community, present in these parts of Asia for centuries already.
  28. The Crusading armies secured the entire coast of the Levant by the middle of 1182 and the Catholic monarchs started discussing and planning a reconquest of Jerusalem. As expected this turned out to be a tedious and conflicting process since every ruler present saw their own interest in recreating the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Bela III wanted to make himself King of Jerusalem, which was supported by Ivan II and by Casimir Piast, who just recently arrived in the Holy Land, after becoming the High Duke of Poland. This was contested by Prince Richard the Lionheart, who had the support of Canute IV of Denmark. Of course, King Philip II of France opposed Richard, as this would make his primary political goal of dismantling the great Angevin Empire in France much more difficult. In the end Emperor Barbarossa proved to be the unifying factor and so the Catholic rulers agreed to proclaim Lord Balian of Ibelin as the rightful King of Jerusalem, who led the defense of Jerusalem, but managed to escape the city at the moment the Ayyubids started to pour inside, since he was the last surviving major noble of Jerusalem left alive after Saladin's massacre. This is approved by Pope Lucius III soon after. So on March 6 1183 the host of the West besieges Jerusalem. Saladin was campaigning in North Africa at the time and was caught off guard and the new siege of Jerusalem shocked the Muslim World.
  29. The Abbasid Caliph Al-Nasir calls upon all Sunni rulers to join in the Jihad against the Crusaders. This opportunity is siezed upon by Ala ad-Din Tekish and Sultan Shah, the two Anushtegin brothers ruling the Khwarezmian Empire and they quickly destroy the remnants of the Seljuks in Iran, thus conquering Iran earlier than in the OTL. Sultan Shah soon dies, apparently of poisoning and the Caliph confirms Ala ad-Din as the sole ruler of the greater Iranian area, simutaneously swearing fealty to him.
  30. The Almohads start to raid and pillage the Iberian kingdoms, which prompts same responses from them, so the death tool of the Crusade begins to be felt in Europe too.
  31. The Crusaders take Jerusalem on July 27. Balian of Ibelin is crowned in the Church of the Holy Sepulchure, with the rulers of the Catholics holding their drawn swords in a circle around him. Saladin starts to amass all the forces of the Ayyubid State in Cairo for a final showdown with the Crusaders. The Anthoninian plans to incite a Coptic revolt against Muslim rule in Egypt succeed, and all around the land Copts start to rebel. This forces Saladin to deploy a part of forces to keep the Copts under control, but he is still able to amass almost 100,000 men to face the Catholics.
  32. On October 5 the Catholic rulers start to march their roughly 70,000 man strong army, who took heavy losses as it was almost 100,000 strong before, towards Egypt and enter the Sinai Peninsula sometime in December. Saladin decides to wait and let the Crusaders come to him, knowing that the harsh and sandy terrain will take it's tool on the Crusading forces, before they reach Cairo.
  33. Sometime in 1185 Temujin, now Khan of the Borjigin Clan, marries Borte of the Onggirat Clan and their first child is born that year, a son named Jochi.
  34. The army of the Western Crusaders, now 60,000 strong as a result of sickness and hunger, arrives before the Cairo and Gizah on 30 May, 1185 and, while observing the Pyramids of old, prepares to face the Ayyubids in a final battle of the bloodiest conflict the Old World has seen in centuries. The Anthoninians, led by Grand Master Binyamin, supplied and supported by King Zakharias V of Nubia and Emperor Gebre Mesqel Lalibela of Ethiopia break into Lower Egypt and rush to support the Catholics. At the same time a combined fleet of Venetian and Armenian Cilician ships blockades the port of Alexandria.
  35. The Battle of Cairo begins on the 2nd of July, 1185. The battle lasts for three full days. In the beginning Saladin's forces deal heavy losses to the Crusaders, but the balance of forces is equalized when the Miaphysites arrive from the south. On the second day a cavalry charge of the Egyptian Mamluks occurs, headed by the Sultan, and Saladin and Richard engage in a short duel, which ends indecisively. On the third day Saladin pushes his entire army forward and begins to gain the upper hand. However, the brave and battle-hardened Sultan decides to lead his men head on as he usually did, which proves to be a fatal mistake this time, as Saladin meets his end at the tip of a Danish knight's sword. The Ayyubids, witnessing the death of their Sultan collapse and start routing. The Crusader stand victorious. They occupy Cairo and Alexandria
  36. However, at the same time the Khwarezmian forces, 50,000 strong, break into Syria, and take all the Ayyubid territories there. They also lay siege to both Acre, Beirut, Aleppo and Antioch, while more and more formerly Ayyubid vassals around the Mashriq and Arabia bend the knee to them. Even the Seljuks in Rum recognised Khwarezmian overlordship. The Crusader kings are unwilling to continue this gruesome and bloody war, so, on the 6th of September, the Khwarezmian Shahanshah Ala ad-Din Tekish and the rulers of the Western realms meet in Jerusalem and sing a peace treaty. The Treaty of Jerusalem established the wider area of Beirut, which would remain in Christian hands, as the border, while Antioch was given to the Muslims. By 1191 the following states were formed in Egypt: the State of the Coptic Church was formed around Alexandria and ruled by the Coptic Pope, the area from Aysut to the outskirts of Cairo became the Monastic state of the Anthoninian Order, Cairo, Gizeh and a stretch of the Egyptian coast became a Catholic Crusader state ruled by Henry of Pecs, a minor Hungarian noble, who distinguished himself in the Crusade, he also awarded some land to Aksel, the Danish knight who killed Saladin. The reminder of the 12th century went without major conflicts. However in 1198, word had reached the court in Cumania that Temujin of the Borjigin has began a campaign to unite the many clans of the Mongols under his rule.
  37. Thus the Third Crusade ended. It was the bloodiest conflict the old Mediterranean World knew in centuries, it resulted in several million deaths, which was at the time roughly 30% of the population of the wider Middle East area. Also in Iberia it resulted in the death of around 10% of the population and large numbers of European soldiers and knights perished on the fields of battle. Indeed some of the actions of both the Crusaders and the Muslims against civilian populations of all religions could be considered early forms of genocide, given the sheer magnitude of the numbers of the people killed. This is evident in the sense that it shocked even the bloody mind of the Medieval World, so much so that the Italian Franciscan friar, Fra Carlo Ricci, a participant in the Crusade, wrote three years after the end of the war:
Help me my Lord
For poor Carlo cannot live
In peace, seeing the horrors
Of the Holy Wars that transpired
So many a innocent killed 
So many a great cities destroyed
So desperately doth weep the lands
Of Palestine, of Syria, of Egypt, of Hispania
So many a desperate widow and orphan 
Doth weep for their husbands and fathers
In my Italia, in Francia, in Germania, in Hungaria
In Polonia, in Sclavonia, in Dania, in Nubia  
And so many of the Saracens, as infidel as they are
Doth weep and I weep with them, for all men are thou children
And I can not curse them, but love them 
For my brothers and sisters they are too
So I implore thou my Lord to punish us with a mighty scourge
To cleanse us from our sins by fire
But to forgive us our trespasses
Leave us not my Lord, for to poor Carlo it seems
That witness have I been to the hour of Lucifer's victory
Let it not be so, Father of Heavens
Protect our Holy Mother the Church
Protect our Lord, the Bishop of Rome Lucius
Protect the lieges of Europe, Africa and Asia
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit