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Ceaseless Conflict - The Diarchy II

Queen of the Ashes. That is the title you have won. Enjoy it while it lasts, for I can already hear another hundred scavengers approach to throw you off your rotten throne.
— Last words of Adeon Velarin
With the last Severan Emperor rotting in his own bed, the gates of war were thrown open once again. Might of arms was now the only thing needed to claim the imperial purple. And with no one left to reign in the Imperial Army, Vardania was in for a truly tumultuous century.

Year of the Six Emperors

Arcadianus' death in late 3034 DA left the Hegemony leaderless. Worse, harsh treatment by imperial bureaucrats had pushed the Veratani into open revolt, and the recent civil war had left the army in a weakened state. Leadership was needed, and when the Western Army raised its Legate Adeon Velarin as Emperor, few complained.   His supremacy would not last, a string of defeats against the Barbarians weakening his position. Soon after, the Eastern Army rebelled and raised Valeria Hestis as Empress. The last remnants of the Northern Army took Aedes Ceranis in the name of a Severan, while the Southern and Heronian Armies did the same in the Reach.   Several regiments of the Western Army seceded from Velarin and proclaimed a scion of House Amares as Emperor. Finally, in defiance of this rampant abuse, the Imperial Senate crowned a candidate of their own, the first in nearly a thousand years. 3035 DA would become known as the Year of the Six Emperors.

Second Diarchy - Helenian/Hestian (3036 - 3058)

By the end of it, Valeria Hestis stood triumphant as master of a decimated Empire. Velarin was allowed to remain her "Co-Ruler", although deputy would be a better description. The Second Diarchy had officially begun:  
Hestian Dynasty

As loathed as she was even by contemporary writers, few could deny that Valeria was an effective leader. By 3037 DA, the Veratani had been subdued, forced back into their treaty with the Empire and settled around the city of Lavran, in lands depopulated by the recent wars. Her harsh nature won her few friends, however, and most would compare her to a thug that took everything she needed by force and without regard for any institution. Far worse was that she alienated her army, choosing for her heir her younger brother Gordian over her daughter Aelia, the latter of which was the preferred candidate of the army.
Lords of the West

Unlike the East, which was in the strong if unhinged hand of the Hestians, the West saw a series of short-lived Emperors, each more puppet than ruler in their own right. While the Western Army was allowed to choose the candidate, all of which would hail from the region of Helenia, the East had the final say on the matter. Throughout the 3040s, the West was in a near-constant state of civil war, and the Hestians had to intervene multiple times to keep the Helenian Emperors from being overthrown by their own army. Vitrian and Haragutai elements also proved difficult to deal with, further straining their resources.
  Enter Euric   Into this chaos now stepped a man that would become synonymous with the image of the "opportunistic barbarian". Called upon by Velarin to support his rebellion, Euric, King of the Thoromungi, entered the fray. Loyalty was not a word he put much stock in, and he was content to leverage his considerable power wherever it promised the most in return. Artfully combining diplomacy with thuggish threats, Euric always managed to stabilise his position and leverage more privileges even when beaten militarily by the Hegemony.  

A House of Cards

  This order, as troubled as it had been, would collapse barely a decade after Valeria's death in 3046 DA. Her brother Gordian had been successor in the east, but he was soon confronted by his niece Aelia. The following civil war was short but devastating. Aelia crushed her uncle's forces before turning west and smashing the Western Field Army at Verea in 3057 DA.   Her ascension was greeted by a renewed revolt among the Veratani. Aelia responded with typical Hestian brutality, driving the Barbarians to near destruction and into the willing arms of Euric, who now reigned as King over most of the northern people. His combined army defeated several of Aelia's generals, but any further response was stalled by Aelia's sudden death in 3059 DA, which left the Hegemony leaderless once again.

Amorian Contention (3059 - 3061)

A vacuum that the Southern Army took advantage of. Two decades of largely peaceful rebuilding had made them once again the strongest army on the continent, and its Legate, Aneas the Amorian, further strengthened his hand when he married one of the last remaining Severans and, through her, gained the loyalty of the Heronian Army.  
March on Tarquinnia

By early summer, the Southern Army had occupied the Heartlands and subdued any Hestian remnants. While Euric continued to act basically uncontested up north, Aneas was securing his newly acquired realm. This delay was seen by many as a great folly, but Aneas took care to prevent another rebellion. If anything, the Diarchy bred ambition and caution in equal measure.
Disaster at Ephemea

Caution that brought nothing in the end. Euric's cunning could not be overcome, and the combined armies of the Empire, in no small part due to infighting, were brought to crushing defeat near the town of Ephemea in late 3060 DA. Aneas' great offensive scattered and expired shortly after, enabling Euric to raid and pillage the entire north virtually unopposed.
Last Stand in Piacenza

Desperate to find a scapegoat for this failure, Aneas made the fatal decision to blame the Heronians and ordered a decimation of their army. Predictably this did not go over well, and by early 3061, the Southern and Heronian Armies were engaged in full-blown civil war. Once again, Aneas faced defeat. His army was crushed at Piacenza and he fled to the city of Moira.
  By late 3061 DA, the Hegemony seemed on the brink of collapse. In north as in south, Barbarian armies were wreaking havoc, the once-proud Imperial Army reduced to ragged bands of thugs who could only watch and the man supposed to protect the land, and its people, was hiding like a common criminal.

A Glimmer of Hope

There now emerged a man that would once again reverse this trend. Brought to power in a combined effort of both Eastern and Western Army, who had escaped the disaster up north suspiciously unharmed, Honorian I. would go on to establish the Third Diarchy, a last stirring of the imperial beast before total collapse would set in.
We truly live in a cursed age. Ruled by fools twice as cruel as Seron and Maria but with barely a tenth of their skill. Rarely has the world seen a group so bereft of sound mind.
— Ataleus, Haragutai Emissary
Conflict Type
Start Date
3034 DA
Ending Date
3061 DA
Conflict Result
Further degradation of the Hegemony's army and administration. The Thoromungi enter Vardania. Establishment of the Honorian Dynasty.
  An Army in Tatters  
Vardania's greatest military force experienced a staggering decline throughout the 31st Century. Constant war forced the armies to rely on mass conscription to fill the ranks. Draconian punishment became the norm to counter any lack of discipline. Even the vast supply network became strained, more and more the play-ball of inter-imperial conflict.   More and more, the disciplined Legion was replaced by a roving band of thugs that proved more dangerous to those it was supposed to protect than those it was supposed to fight. In order to protect themselves, many landowners and cities began to establish their own militias or hired Barbarian mercenaries.
  Red Shadow  
Valeria Hestis often liked to portray herself as an heir to Maria the Red, and certainly matched her in terms of ruthlessness. However, where Maria had used terror as a precise tool to instil order, Valeria simply lashed out at whoever she suspected of disloyalty. To many, her reign marks the point when the eastern Vardania began to decline in earnest.
    Ethnic Army  
A hallmark of the later Diarchy were the so-called "ethnic commands". Imperial officers began to increasingly hail from a select few regions and ethnicities. Most prominent among them the Amorians, which formed the majority of officers in the Southern Army throughout the period. Such factionalism served to further weaken both army and Hegemony, as the internal struggle for political dominance became tied to ethnic conflicts.
The pursuit of power for power's sake can only serve to poison the soul.
— Moaran, Vardanian Archivar
  The Great Enemy  
Often demonized by later historians, Euric of the Thoromungi was the first of a new type of Barbarian. One that sought to rise within the imperial hierarchy rather than serve as a privileged ally. As such his goals often revolved around carving a niche for himself and his allies, the demand for prestigious ranks in the Imperial Army being only the most prominent.   Valeria Hestis was successfully pressured into making him Regis Auxilaria Boreani in 3046 DA, putting the Thoromungi on par with the previously favoured Heronians. By 3055, his armies had essentially replaced the Imperial Legions as the force of order in northern Vardania. Euric, and by extension his tribe, had yet to reach the apex of their power, however.

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Articles under Ceaseless Conflict - The Diarchy II

Cover image: by Radman


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