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The Rebirth of Rome

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The Rebirth of Rome

Done for the Map of the Fortnight contest over at Sufficient Velocity:

The Roman Empire under Maurice was not restored to its former glory, but it did survive. Transferring an increasing amount of power to the rich provinces in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in Egypt, the Roman Empire was able to survive and endure the perilous 7th and 8th centuries that determined whether the Roman Empire would live or fall. It lived, if only barely, with at one point much of the Middle East almost lost to the Arabian invaders before being driven back for all time. The Roman Empire would endure in the centuries that followed, ebbing and rising in its power over time, though always at the forefront of European power. However, despite this, Rome's power increasingly came from other sources besides Europe. While the Empire kept a presence within Greece, Macedonia, Thrace, and of course The Eternal City of Constantinople, the true power of the empire lay elsewhere. In particular, Egypt was the center of the empire, the axis around which the entirety of Rome spun around. Egypt was the breadbasket, the population center, the Great Bazaar writ large, and the location of Alexandria: the only city that could rival Constantinople in its splendor.

It is only natural, then, that when the Roman Empire at last entered a new Golden Age during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, it would be Egypt and the Near East where the greatest fruits would be borne. It began as Rhomania came to be ruled by the so-called "Aegyptian dynasty", rulers who hailed largely from Alexandria even if they technically ruled from the palace in Constantinople. This dynasty took power away from semi-feudal governors of the themes who had gained increasing amounts of power over the centuries. They took this power and invested it into local government at the city, town, and village level, and emperors surrounded themselves with far more competent advisers under a system of absolute national rule and hands-off local rule.

This had many effects on Egypt and the Near East within the Empire. Egypt rose to ever-greater heights, becoming far and away the richest part of Rhomania bar the city of Constantinople itself, and the population of the region swelled. Commerce became a huge industry as the markets of Alexandria and along the Nile held goods from all over the world and Egypt itself was the great middleman for connecting Europe to Asia, shifting the balance away from Thrace and Asia Minor. Yet it was in the Near East where some of the greatest effects were felt: the Anagénnisi (Rebirth). Here, city governors, bishops, and powerful patron families in the great cities of the region began to use their newfound freedoms and power to transform the Roman Near East. Many great building projects were taken underway, ancient cities transformed over decades into some of the most modern and sophisticated cities in the world. Great works of art, music, and writing were commissioned in this time, and the best minds of Rhomania (as well as Europe and the Middle East) flocked to the region. In particular, Jerusalem underwent a transformation greater than any that had occurred since the city was allowed to openly preach Christianity, becoming a city of all the world and yet unique unto itself with powerful men from every corner of the Earth vying for just a seat at the table. The City of God would only be one of many in the region to be affected, but nowhere else were the works grander of the people working harder.

The Golden Age would not last forever, of course, but it would be one of the most notable of that period as the world began to breathe new life into itself and flourish across all continents. Rome, then, stood at the center of this rebirth and reaped the riches from it, finally living up to the legacy the nation had so long borne. 


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