The Mission. On the Copts and their natural tendency towards heresy (part 6 of 6)


The entry of Islam, in the form of a violent wind of change that blew from the Middle East towards all the borders of the known world, devastated the Roman Empire, reducing it to a small colony in the Peloponnese. Only the tiny kingdom of Odo I of Aquitaine, later annexed by the Saxons, managed to slow down their advance in mid-Europe, while the kingdoms of Nubia are the only ones who found a diplomatic agreement with the jihadists, formalizing the Baqt, a slave trade that blocked the spread of the revolution along what, for me, is the Coptic branch of Christianity. As for the pagan peoples, the Turks were relegated to the point of disappearing from the map, while the Vandals were replaced by the Berbers, themselves Muslims.

It's going badly, in short, but we are now at the end of a thousand-year journey. Christianity has survived so far, but still has to wait a few centuries before the coming of the Crusades, the final climax in which the state of the Mission in the world will be summed up. Let us therefore face the...

Sixth era. Early Middle Ages (751 AD - 1094 AD)

The Jihad is over. All the territories it affected were absorbed by the force that, within it, proved to be the most powerful: the Abbasid Caliphate. Tired of a war that has lasted for over one hundred and twenty years, it shows no interest in expanding its gigantic borders, which extend from Mauretania Tingitana to Mongolia, passing through Spain, Cilicia and the former Parthian Empire.

What was the Parthian Empire lays in the hands
of the Abbasids. Soon all those nice christian
communities will return to paganize themselves.

In this context what will be the last ecumenical council of the game takes place: the Second Council of Nicaea. The agenda, this time too, would be simple: we have filled the entire Coptic region with Melkites, do we want to do something with it? Do we want to at least mend the schism with the Miaphysites? The stimulating debate is nipped in the bud once again by the same circumstances as the last time: the Roman Emperor, Constantine V, needless to say, is a heretic. Nomen omen.

I don't know exactly what this has to do with the council, considering that that decapitated hen of the Southern Roman Empire, on the global chessboard, now counts zero. Its capital, Carthage, has been occupied by Muslims for decades, and with Abbasid power now cemented there is no way to take it back. In fact, the Romans live in a real diaspora: its borders are almost limited to the Peloponnese alone. Abstracting the discussion a little, finding myself with a heretical emperor, here, probably means to have an heir to the title of Emperor of the Romans who lives in occupied Carthage and who is Muslim, and that the awareness that the great rulers of the earth are abandoning Christianity en masse to unite with the Islamic creed grips Christian missionaries, who inevitably do the math in their pockets and don't travel to the Second Council of Nicaea, which therefore fails. Anguished at the thought of how much money I have invested in those Melkites, now destined for to uselessness, I put my hands in my hair and proceed through the last rounds of the game, trying to at least bring the oars into the boat in view of an ending that is already prefigured to be stormy.

The Reconquista is done!

Having acknowledged that the Second Council of Nicaea is not to be held, the first noteworthy historical event of this new era is the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire. The part of the Christian Saxons who had taken possession of France in fact produces a new ruler, Charlemagne, who crowns himself alone given that Pope Leo III is under constant surveillance in the Rome of sultan Hārūn al-Rashīd. At this point the Saxons return to being pagans and attack Gaul again, trying to take it away from the new Emperor, but without success. The latter realizes that he needs living space and therefore launches an offensive in the opposite direction, managing alone, against all odds, to reconquer Spain from the Muslims. The Reconquista is accomplished. Although the muslims retreat towards Italy, this raises some hope in our occupied peninsula: the Latin Bible in fact reaches Milan and proves useful for converting the niche of local scholars.

The complexity of the situation requires drastic solutions. It is decided to try to convert the Bulgarians to Christianity now that the Islamic enemy is there. To intercede with them, money is needed: the coffers of global Christianity are therefore emptied and the bones of Saints Peter and Paul are sold. This is of no use: the Bulgarians don't want to hear of it and have the preachers who had tried to intercede with their leaders killed.

Meanwhile, having reached the middle of the ninth century, the counter-missionary activity of the Muslims achieves its goal, and roughly half of the Christian territories around the map succumbed to apostasy, returning to paganism. Desperation, however, reserves some space for surprise: the Coptic branch is almost entirely, incredibly, Christian: Nubia extends over a large part of those territories, while in Alexandria the Coptic Pope, John IV, works to keep the Christian community alive. Only Thebes becomes pagan again and, said between us, if at this point I had remembered that by placing the Coptic Bible there I could have avoided its apostasy I would have taken a lot of problems off my shoulders for the rest of the game... but oh well, shit happens.

The sparse armenians organize themselves
to resist the aposthasy. With success,
I gotta admit.

In this period, given the trend, heresies are again flocking. The first to emerge are the Monoteletes, who with all the good intentions in the world refer to some minor issues that emerged during the councils of previous centuries: Christian doctrine establishes that Christ never sinned, not even by mistake, and this, therefore, seems to clearly imply that he has an exclusively divine nature. If he had also been a man he would have at least been tempted by sin, like other men, don't you think? The thought makes sense, and could be discussed appropriately in council. The problem is that the monotheletes think that now that there are Muslims they can say whatever the fuck they want without repercussions, and therefore they found their heretical cult in Numidia, where the Abbasid Caliphate immediately sees them as the troublemakers they are and has all of them killed without thinking twice. The Paulicians meet a similar fate: they are essentially a collage of all the worst heresies I have encountered during the game, from Manichaeism to Gnosticism, passing through Marcionism and without denying themselves a splash of iconoclasm and catharism, which in this game are not yet to come out and maybe they won't show up at all. They appear in Milan, which has just been converted to Christianity despite the Arab military occupation. The Muslims, probably busy hunting Christians, find them, mistake them for regular Christians, and kill them all. You see that, at the end of the day, having half the world under Abbasid control all in all has its benefits.

What remains of the Roman Empire
barricades in Anatolia.

In the meantime, the Turks abandon their pagan ways and embrace Islam in turn, although they do not make peace with the Abbasids, with whom they clash again in Mongolia, without producing territorial changes. On the other side of the world, the Berbers, however, manage to undermine the strength of the Caliphate, conquering Numidia. But it is in the Peloponnese and the Near East that, at this point, the most sensational facts develop: the Turks who had peacefully established themselves in today's Turkey, in fact, found the Seljuk caliphate, worse than the Abbasid one, and they replace it. This happens while the Bulgarians attempt to put an end, once and for all, to the Southern Roman Empire: a massive military campaign is launched which manages to expel the Empire from Greece. Now reduced to Anatolia alone, it finds the support of a local resistance formed precisely by the Christian populations, well inclined towards martyrdom. But at this point the Seljuk Bey's dynasty wants to join the games: the Seljuks cross the border from Cilicia and invade Anatolia. And this time there is no martyrdom that matters: the Roman Empire is definitively annihilated. All that remains of it is the capital, Carthage, which however is permanently occupied by Abbasid forces. Even the Bulgarians are amazed and are unable to slow down in any way the furious advance of the Seljuks, who at this point make a clean sweep and push them back to the Danube Valley, where in the meantime the female population, frightened by the barbaric customs of the Seljuks, largely devotes itself to Christianity.

The roman army lays in company
of the military orders that ceded
against the Jihad.

Practically in the entire Orthodox branch no longer exists a political power that supports the Christian cause. However, the work of the brothers Cyril and Methodius, evangelizers historically responsible for the conversion of the Slavic peoples, intervene to save all these people from mass apostasy. Their activity, heavily subsidized by money coming from Christian coffers and by the personal contribution of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Photius I, manages to somewhat contain the religious reform carried out by Muslims in these regions.

We now reach the last round of the game. The fear of the year one thousand does not seem to grip the peoples of the earth too much, who enjoy their present day: the Khazars manage to recover Sarir for the second time: it, after being freed by the Unnamed, was conquered by the Abbasid Caliphate, who at this point also retreats on the eastern front: the Turks manage to descend through Mongolia and down to Khazar. Nubia is affected by the expansionist desires of the Shewa Sultanate, which replaced the Himyar clans. Nothing changes: the Nubians hold their own. However, the conquest carried out by the Seljuk dynasty continues in north-eastern Europe, kicking the Bulgarians off the map and, effectively, out of the game. This thing is so rapid that it takes even the adoptionist heretics by surprise. They have now become the most powerful religious sect of what is now called Kievan Rus, in which they have been established since the time of Constantine. Once the Rus is swept away, suddenly the adoptionists find themselves under a Muslim government. Having received a visit from the bishop of Armenian Christianity, they allow themselves to be persuaded to review some details of their doctrine so as to return to the ranks of traditional Christianity, after which they collaborate in converting all of Kiev to Christianity, once and for all, in defiance of the Seljuks who are already sharpening their tools of torture. In the meantime, Cilicia is also converted, and at this point the Orthodox leaders themselves meet the Seljuks, offering them a mountain of money in order to buy themselves at least a few decades of religious freedom. The Seljuks, who at this point need money a lot, agree.

Alme Sol, curru nitido diem qui
promis et
celas aliusque et idem
nasceris, possis nihil urbe Roma
visere maius.

We are at the end: the closing of the games falls to the Holy Roman Empire, now led by Henry IV, who in this match, unlike the historical figure, does not have heretical orgies, does not celebrate black masses on the naked body of his wife and is not fighting with the Roman Pope. Au contraire he, after having conquered Belgium from the Saxons, ends the game by advancing from Spain over the Alps. Here he clashes again with the Abbasid Caliphate, which he pushes back first to the south of the Po Valley and then away from Italy, liberating both Milan and the fall of Rome from the Islamic grip. This finally gives breathing space to the politically irrelevant Church State, which has continued to exist all these years as an abstract entity, completely divorced from the real world facts around it. But above all this offers the Holy Roman Empire the possibility of becoming Roman in all respects. In fact, Henry IV announces that from now on the capital of the Roman Empire will no longer be the fallen Carthage, which has had nothing Roman about it for centuries, but Rome, as the etymology would have it.

A purely symbolic return to the origins, considering that the map is now entirely occupied by political forces that were not there at the start of the game. The fact is that the awareness that elsewhere in the world there are still many peoples who define themselves as Christians, and that these, despite the continuous erosion of apostasy, continue to survive under the constant threat of ethnic cleansing by forces that overwhelm them, is enough to convince the Holy Roman Empire and the other Christian kingdoms on earth, primarily the powerful Nubia, that something could be done to free the known world from the Muslim threat.

Epilogue. The Age of the Crusades (1095 AD - 1291 AD)

Go copts!

The game is over. In calculating the resulting score, the fact that the Roman capital was restored, as well as the reconquest of Spain, weighs positively. But above all, the unity of the Orthodox and Coptic branches weighs very positively: despite the difficult expansion, in the first case, and the easy tendency to heresy, in the second, they prove to be the most solid expressions of global Christianity, capable of surviviving centuries of jihad, Islamic occupation and merry heresy. The fact that I have sold over half of the relics of the saints around the map weighs negatively, but this is largely counterbalanced by the wide diffusion of the New Testament, translated into all languages, and by the fact that there are no heresies around the world map. Astonishing.

I discover that, by a hair's breadth, I have reached an intermediate ending, corresponding to the historical outcome. After a thousand years of hard struggle for survival there will therefore actually be the crusades, which will evolve as they historically did (or, who knows, perhaps just as emerged from my past games of Kingdom of Heaven...). The Crusader states will rise and die, and the holy wars will be a humanly senseless massacre from any point of view you want to look at them. But Christianity will continue to exist, solidifying more and more until the arrival of the Ottoman Empire, which will be the only power that, in the future, will prove capable of jeopardizing its existence.

When that day comes other missionaries will perhaps take my place. My role as a leader of Christianity ends here, I think with a certain success, considering the bad luck that came my way, a thousand years after the crucifixion.

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