The Mission. On the Copts and their natural tendency towards heresy (part 5 of 6)
The Roman Empire faltered, under the pressure of a horde of barbarian populations who have sacked Rome, ruined the title of Emperor, and significantly reduced the imperial borders. Strong support, both economic and factual, from Christians to the Roman cause, however, managed to stem the damage both in Mauretania Tingitana, where the Vandals still can't surpass the border, and in Ethiopia, where the Himyar clans, despite an initial advance, were driven back into the desert by the Nubian kingdoms. We must not forget, in fact, that in this game, starting from the advent of Constantius II and up to the coming of Gregory the Great, Christianity was a warring religion, which did not disdain the use of weapons in order to protect its own doctrine.
It is not certain that such weapons will prove capable of defeating the next incoming enemy, however, as this time Christianity will face a threat coming from within: a new Abrahamic religion is in fact spreading, once again, from the Middle East...
Fifth era. The rise of Islam (631 AD - 750 AD)
One day the missionaries of the Christian world wake up to a big news. The Emperor, Heraclius I, died of dropsy, and the new one, Constantine III, is heretic. Nothing strange, since by now they're used to the nature of people calling themselves "Constantino". They'll have to spend another thirty years arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, then everything will be back to normal and they will go back to doing some healthy missionary work.
|The next four years will be heavy.
Then comes the actual news. Constantine III is not a believer in the cult of Isis, like several of his predecessors. Indeed, the cult of Isis is now completely extinct. That's good, someone says. But the fact is that Constantine III claims that yes, God exists, and blablabla. But he also claims that his true messiah is another, and his name is Mohammed.
The advent of Islam explodes with the power of an atomic bomb in the middle of the Middle East which gave birth to Christianity. From one moment to an other, Jerusalem itself is occupied by a theological ferment the likes of which have never been seen. There is only one password, and it is Jihad, meaning a political-social-religious fury fueled by the Caliph Abū Bakr, Muhammad's childhood friend. For the moment, the Jihad is not explicitly directed against Christians, but it still concerns them, because the kingdoms surrounding Jerusalem will be the first to pay the price. Starting from the Roman Empire, in whose shadow Christians have long learned to thrive.
|A pact straight out of a nightmare
stops the war in Alexandria.
The Jihad first proceeds south, devouring all Roman possessions in Alexandria and Thebes. Once it reaches the gates of Nubia, the diplomats of the latter try everything in their power, proposing to the jihadists a terrible pact, but which could be enough to stop the war: a periodic tribute of thousands of slaves, in exchange for peace. The jihadists accept, and the Jihad against the Coptic branch immediately stops. Thus is born the Baqt, a peace agreement based on the lives of slaves.
Elsewhere the Jihad is much more difficult to contain, and there is no diplomacy that matters: it invades Italy, freeing Rome from the Romans and proceeding to invade the independent Milan. Antioch also falls under the advance of the Jihad, which then tries to spread into Armenia, where it finds an unexpected opponent, namely the dominion of the Khazars, who beat the jihadists back to in Antioch. In one single hit three of the five borders of the Southern Roman Empire have completely been annihilated. As if that wasn't enough, meanwhile, the Pelegian heresy, that is an apocryphal point of view on responsibility, guilt and the consequences of original sin, explodes in Britain, while the Bulgarians clash with the Avars, losing the battle. The Turks, however, also take Persia, the heart of the Parthian Empire, of which only a tiny fraction now survives, surrounded in Ctesiphon. In the extreme south of the map the Himyar clans attack Nubia and take back Ethiopia, only to lose it again after a new, costly military campaign by the latter.
We are in the first round of Islam and the situation has already gone to hell, but there is a positive side: as I was saying at the moment, Jihad is a confusing thing, in which Christians are not yet being hunted. The latter, of course, begin to shit themselves at the thought of what will happen to them when this revolutionary period is over, but until then they can continue to freely profess their faith. Which gives me, at least, time to act.
|The women of the shismatic Antioch
reunite neat the Bible so to not lose the faith
during the jihadist occupation.
Where to start? From a new ecumenical council, obviously. We need to organize one as soon as possible. In a hurry the leaders of the four non-schismatic Churches prepare to organize the Third Council of Constantinople, something that hopefully will not turn out to be a farce as the Second was. The hope is to make peace with the Copts, but their plans shatter when none other than the Emperor of the Romans, the Muslim Constantine III, puts his hand in it. He prevents the organization of a Council in which the Mission had invested a lot of money. Do you remember those Melkites? They were supposed to give me bonuses on the die roll I should have done to mend the schism of the Coptic Miaphysite Church, but since the Council is cancelled, I can't do that roll.
|The Vandals take Mauretania Tingitana.
The Roman Empire gasps.
Outside the Roman borders things become equally confused: the Turkish invasion that had led to the almost total collapse of the Parthian Empire crumples upon itself at the moment in which a new horde of oriental peoples, the Onoq Khaganate, takes possession, once again, of Mongolia, as well as all the territories between it and Persia. This throws me into despair: I was hoping to witness a clash between jihadists and pagan Turks for the future of the ancient Parthian territories, which now, not defended at all by the Onoq, are at the mercy of the Jihad. The latter, in fact, seizes the opportunity, devastates Ctesiphon, eliminating what remains of the Parthian Empire, and spreads through what was Persia, up to Merv. Meanwhile, the Bulgarians manage to overcome the Danube Valley, finally overcoming the problem of the Avars, proceeding towards the south-east until occupying Constantinople, taken from the Romans, who retreat to Greece. The Vandals go on the attack, this time succeeding in the attack on a very fierce Roman and Christian defense that evidently shows the signs of a widespread heretical cancer. The Order of the Knights of Tingitana dies, while the borders of Rome recede to Carthage: the Vandals occupy both Mauretania Tingitana and Numidia. Much of the turn's budget is spent on having the Romans reconquer Numidia and Mauretania Tingitana, and on re-establishing the Order of the Knights of Tingitana, after which the bishop of Ireland, who had gone to explore Saxony, is promoted to archbishop and sent to Britain, where he successfully sweeps away the Pelegians and reconverts to Christianity the confused people who the heretics had blindly led back to paganism.
|The Roman army gets ready to defend Tripli
together with local communities, with albeit being pagan
the nonetheless are inclined to martyrdom.
The end of the seventh century is very harsh. Jihad reaches its climax, exploding in all directions simultaneously. Spain, Cilicia, Albania, Merv and Cyrenaica fall under jihadist control. Greece, the last Roman outpost outside North Africa, resists the Bulgarian offensive. The Turks defeat the Onoq Khaganate and retake Mongolia. The Vandals, once again, break through everything and take back Tingitana. The jihadists do not stop, now spreading to North Africa too. All the Roman possessions up to Sufetula, an ancient city in present-day Tunisia, are swept away, including those of Tripoli where together with the Romans even fight some pagan civilians inclined to martyrdom, a sign that Jihad raises antipathies in the entire ancient world, not only among Christians. The Islamic wave inspires the coming of a new Muslim people, namely that of the Berbers, who invades the territories of the Vandals and replaces them. Far from all this, the war for the crown of the Franks explodes again: the Saxons go on the attack, but once again they emerge defeated, which is unnerving because if they don't reach Italy it will be difficult to exploit them properly in the fight against Islam.
Faced with a Roman Empire now erased from the map, it seems that the only hope for Christians lies in those barbaric peoples inclined to be converted to Christianity, as already happened with the Saxons. The feat is attempted: the bishop of Antioch leaves the city, mixing with the crowd of jihadists, reaches Armenia and crosses the border presided over by the Khazars, conducting a rapid conversion campaign which achieves some success in Georgia and Alania. A large amount of money is spent to meet the religious leaders of the Khazars, who, however, despite the masses already converted in their territories, do not let themselves be fooled and remain pagan. The situation is dark, and a move that is as wicked as it is desperate is opted for. The relics of Saint James and Saint Barnabas are sold to nobles in exchange for a modest amount of money, which is immediately reinvested in a second attempt at conversion of the Khazars... once again unsuccessful. The final sacrifice of James and Barnabas is, in short, completely useless, and the communities of Georgia and Alania, at this point still under the control of a pagan people, succumb to apostasy. In the meantime only the circulation of the Bible manages to bring a bit of hope to the communities in Tingitana, which do not give up and remain faithful, and to Kashgar, currently free from the control of both the Turks and the jihadists, who is therefore converted.
|The Berbers replace the Vandals while the Jihad finally
spreads in the Roman capital, Carthage. The Roman army
retreats to Numidia, where it will soon be destroyed
by the joint action of Berbers and jihadists.
We thus arrive at the middle of the eighth century, in which the Jihad comes alive with a final, very violent impetus. In fact, the turn opens with the invasion of India, which occurs without any resistance whatsoever. Resistance that occurs instead in Carthage, where the Roman army fights with all the strength it has... and then gives in. The capital of the Southern Roman Empire, Carthage, is occupied by the Jihad. The Roman Empire, initially pushed to Numidia, first holds out against the Berbers and, then, is definitively destroyed by the jihadists. It therefore continues to exist exclusively as a government in exile in its colonies, reduced solely to the territories of Greece and Anatolia. This situation, if nothing else, at least closes once and for all the debates regarding the Mos Mairoum: Rome may have been born peasant, but it is evidently destined to die Greek.
|Odo I of Aquitaine doesn't move.
The Jihad goes so crazy that it occupies the entirety of Iberia, then crashes into a formidable adversary... Odo I of Aquitaine, the King of the area still known as Transalpine Gaul, now so trained in the fight against the Saxons that they certainly do not fear the invasion of the Jihad. However, the symbolic resistance of Odo I inspires the forces of the Saxons, who finally manage to invade his lands and absorb his kingdom, aspiring to become the bastion destined to repel Islam from Europe. Demonstrating the impiety of their words, they immediately engage the Jihad in Spain... and emerge defeated.
Meanwhile, the Turks don't give up: they once again take Kashgar and India, removing it from the control of the jihadists. However, a few years later these respond by reconquering India, Kashgar and Mongolia... and effectively occupying the entirety of Asia. The Turks are wiped off the map.
The bishop of Greece, an enterprising man, decides at this point that converting the Bulgarians could be a solution to save Orthodox Christianity. He travels to Constantinople, which is FINALLY, for the first time in the entire game, visited by a real missionary, and converts it to Christianity. He proceeds towards the Danube, where the bishop finds love, but after some geographical comings and goings he subjugates his own impulses, returning to the territories that were of the Avars and converts them. He then travels to Kiev, where he meets the leaders of the Bulgarian people... failing in his attempt to convert them. It is only the intervention of John Chrysostom, a great theologian who dedicated the entirety of his missionary work to the Orthodox area, that prevents all these territories occupied by the pagan Bulgarians from experiencing mass apostasy.
Not far from there, meanwhile, Albania, timidly, is reached by the Bible and embraces Christianity, a fact that warms the hearts of missionaries around the world, especially considering what is about to happen. Jihad, after having exploded with extreme violence, seems to have exhausted its potential. This fact is only apparently positive: the territories it has reached will in fact be affected by the influence of the Abbasid Caliphate, which will now spend a lot of energy to eliminate the Christian populations within its borders.
Dark times lie ahead for missionaries. Let's see how much dark they are in a week, in the sixth and final part of this report, in which the religious struggle definitively converges with international geopolitics.
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