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The History of Europe, 1066 to 1315 (a Crusader Kings 2 AAR)

I’ve been observing a simulation of the Europe and the Middle-East from 1066 to 1315, using the grand strategy game Crusader Kings 2. The history that has developed is quite fascinating: Crusader Kings is a deep game that simulates and models feudal relationships, dynamics, intrigue and warfare that was prominent in the Middle Ages, and the world that has developed during the period of my simulation is very representative of that.

By 1315 in my simulation, the world is nothing like it was in the real 1315. However, the direction history took in my simulation is nonetheless fascinating and complete, and using tools available to me in the game I can dig through the events and characters of history to see what happened, who it happened to, when it happened and where. Using this information, I’ve created a mini-history which covers most of the regions of Europe and the Middle East and the powerful kingdoms and sultanates within those regions from 1066 to 1315.

It is absolutely fantastic to watch the world develop in this game, because it is an organic history that flows based on the consequences of the choices made by people and countries which are represented in game. It is a believable history, one which sucked me in while writing it and engrossed me in its complexity as I studied it. It is amazing to think that this can all be done using a video game, but it definitely can. I spent the last 10 hours running a simulation, the last 3 studying the history it produced, the last hour writing it down, but covered a (simulated) 249 year period of time. Its amazing how much can change over such a period of time, and how much you can take away from studying it.

Anyways, here is my history, split into the regions of the world and even further into the specific countries within those regions. I’ve given coverage to major events that have happened, dynasty changes, and other things I deemed worthy of historical reference.

The Medieval world in 1315 (click to expand)

Western Europe:

  • Harold of Godwin was killed in battle against the Norwegians and Norway took the throne in 1067, but immediately afterwards they were defeated by, and the throne went into the hands of, William de Normandie. About a month or two after there was a massive revolt across England and Harold’s brother took the crown. England has been in the hands of the Godwin dynasty since.
  • Ireland formed in 1194, and has since dominated the Irish isle and much of western Britain. The Athfotla dynasty usurped the Scottish throne from the Dunkleds in 1096 and have since remained seated.
  • Following a massive revolt and civil war, France ceased to be on the 31st of October, 1127. The Kingdom title has been unclaimed since, and the Capet dynasty died out within a generation after losing the throne. The territory formerly under French rule has gone back and forth between a number of different duchies and rulers since the collapse of the kingdom. For a while Brittany dominated a large amount of land, and the De Rennes dynasty which ruled Brittany has retained its power in the present by having its members sitting on the thrones of Brittany and Navarra. The powerful duchy of Valois, ruled by the de Valois dynasty, is a recent hegemon that in early 1300 defeated the duchies of Orleans and Champagne to acquire its current boundaries.

Southern Europe:

  • Spain was a back-and-forth between the Muslims and the Christians until around 1200, when the Kingdom of Castile centralized all the Christian titles under a single ruler and pushed them out. The Spanish Empire was formed in 1231, but internal instability and a new dynasty (the de Valladolid) on the throne caused the Empire to disintegrate and disappear in 1293. Now Spain is split between the Jimena ruled Kingdoms of Leon, Aragon, and Portugal, the De Valladolid Kingdom of Andalusia, the De Renne kingdom of Navarra, and some remnant Muslim counties in south-eastern Iberia.
  • The Kingdom of Sicily formed under the De Hauteville dynasty in 1090, but a successful Egyptian Jihad for Sicily in 1010 pushed them off the throne and an Egyptian sheikh replaced them. The Fatimid Egyptians tenuously ruled Sicily until 1040, when a Crusade led by the Holy Roman Empire won the lands back, and a member of the Staden dynasty, of which a member was the Holy Roman Emperor, was seated on the throne. From 1040 to 1237 they ruled Sicily, waging very successful holy wars through most of North Africa.  A number of Jihads launched against Sicily in that period of time were crushed by the dynastic alliance of Sicily and the Holy Roman Empire, which produced armies numbering in the 20,000s. In 1237 a revolt toppled the Staden dynasty, resulting in some of their Sicilian holdings going to the branch of the family ruling the Holy Roman Empire (hence the HRE’s presence in Sicily) and three other dynasties, the Von Cosenza, the Von Cheiti, and the Von Lecce, holding the kingship until 1290. In 1290 the Staden reclaimed the throne, though they were again overthrown in 1303 by the Von Cheiti. Much of the North African territory held by Sicily was split between the Staden in the Holy Roman Empire, remained in the personal holdings of the Sicilian kings, or revolted to create the independent Christian duchies of Algiers and Fes.

Central and North Europe:

  • The Holy Roman Empire experienced a number of revolts through the years, but none have been successful. Indeed, the territory underneath the Emperor has expanded quite significantly since 1066: it came to include much of Southern France and southern Italy. A member of the Staden dynasty, who held the Duchy of Brandenburg, was elected Emperor in 1069, and each of the 8 Emperors elected since have been a Staden. The popularity of the Staden dynasty and their successful rule has enabled them to centralize the power of the Emperor and institute a heavy authority throughout the empire.
  • The Republic of Venice has accomplished little, though interestingly of note it has been ruled since 1126 by Christian Doges of the Ashkenazi ethnicity, which is a Judaic culture, and since 1292 by actual Ashkenazi Jews.
  • Denmark under the Ylving dynasty did little other than occupy some Pagan lands along the Baltic coast until the latter half of the 12th century. In 1170, however, they pushed a claim on the throne of Norway and won, giving them a massive foothold in Scandinavia. They expanded rapidly afterwards, coming to hold much of Sweden and Finland by 1270 when a revolt in Scandinavia toppled their rule and reduced them to a few scattered holdings and a reduced, though still significant, holding in Finland. In the early 13th century, prior to the collapse of Danish power and the Scandinavian revolt, the Ylving lost the throne to the af Bornholm dynasty.
  • Poland expanded throughout the Baltic Pagan lands from 1066 to about 1180, when the last Pagan territories in the Baltic were conquered. Since then, Polish territory has remained basically static. The Piast dynasty lost the throne in 1204 to the Poraj, who in turn lost it in 1305 to a cadet branch of the Trpimirovic dynasty, which has ruled  the Kingdom of Croatia in an unbroken succession from 1066 to the present.
  • Hungary was ruled by the Arpad dynasty from 1066 to 1134, during which time it experienced a number of revolts but also significant expansion eastward into Wallachia and even further into the Crimea through victorious holy wars against the Terteroba Khanate. In 1146, the Arpad were overthrown and replaced by the Poth dynasty, though they retained much of their holdings and using their still significant power rebelled and regained their throne in 1165. Following the Arpad restoration Hungary consolidated its holdings, though it lost some of its northern territory to the Kingdom of Poland. In 1225 a cadet branch of a French noble family with meager holdings in the quagmire that was disintegrated France, the de Bourgogne, came to inherit the throne. A foreign family on the throne was unpopular with the Hungarian nobility, and by 1281 the de Bourgogne were overthrown again by the Poth. The Poth did not manage to hold onto power for long, however, and in 1281 the de Bourgogne pressed their lost claims in Hungary and regained the kingdom. During this civil war, many of the Hungarian holdings in Wallachia and the Crimea secured their independence, creating new duchies and a Kingdom of Crimea ruled by ethnic Hungarians.

Eastern Europe:

  • The Grand Principality of Kiev, ruled by the Russian Rurikovich dynasty, quickly consolidated power by incorporating smaller duchies held by other members of the family.  The Grand Principality of Muscowy, also ruled by the Rurikovich, was formed in 1086 from the lands to the east of Kiev which had not yet been incorporated. These two principalities struggled for power back and forth, but rapidly expanded through the remaining Orthodox lands until they were the only two political entities in the Christian East. Kiev had completely conquered the Pagan lands in Siberia and the Russian North by the end of the 13th century. The Rurikovich have remained seated securely on thrones of both principalities since 1066, and almost every duke in Kiev and Muscowy has a dynastic tie to the Grand Princes. Although the ruling nobility of Kiev and Muscowy practice traditional Orthodox Christianity, there is a significant Iconoclast movement in eastern Kiev.
  • From 1066 until the second half of the 13th century, a significant Pagan kingdom existed in Estonia. Ruled by Baltic Chiefs of the Suomensuko Pagan religion, the Chiefdom of Estonia at its greatest extent ruled a territory stretching across the Baltic coast, incorporating almost all of the land in Estonia and Livonia, and extending into Finland. The combined forces of Poland, Kiev, and Denmark eventually drained the strength of the Pagan Chiefdom, and its territories were finally all conquered by 1254. This chiefdom was ruled unbroken by the Parn dynasty. Interestingly, from 1174 to 1193 the ruling Chief practiced Orthodox Christianity, having been converted by his tutor during his early childhood. He did not manage to Christianize his lands, however, and his Pagan son reverted any religious conversion he made upon his death.
  • The Kotyan Khanate came to being in 1288, when the Terteroba dynasty of the Terteroba Khanate was overthrown and their lands incorporated into the Kotyan Khanate. The Terteroba ruled from 1066 to 1288, and once possessed an empire which stretched from the Russian steppes into Wallachia and along the border of Hungary. Though much of their central European possessions were captured in holy wars by the Hungarian, the Terteroba were able to capture a significant portion of territory in Russia held by the Principality of Muscowy and the Muslim Bulgars around the middle of the 12th century.  In the middle of the 13th century, they expanded south into Seljuk Turk territory once held by the Kingdom of Georgia but captured in the 1160s. The Kotyan, like their Terteroba predecessors, are followers of the  North Pagan Tengri faith, and much of the territory held by the Kotyan Khanate practices Tengri.
  • The Byzantine Empire has experienced a number of ups and downs during the years between 1066 and 1315. They lost the Seljuk-Byzantine war against the Seljuk Turks in 1070, and with it most of their territorial possessions in Eastern Anatolia. In the period of time between 1070 and the 1240s, the Muslim neighbors of the Byzantines engaged in a number of border wars with them, but very little territorial concessions were given. Though strong when operating as a cohesive political entity, the Byzantine Empire had been severely weakened over the years by a number of revolts and political instability. During one such revolt in 1101 the Doukas dynasty was forced off the throne and replaced by the Pleustes dynasty. Under the rule of the new dynasty, the Byzantine Empire captured territories to its west, conquering portions of Croatia and the independent Duchy of Duklja. Imperial integrity was also largely restored, and the authority of the emperor was greatly expanded. The Pleustes ruled the Byzantine Empire until 1248, when another massive revolt against the tyranny of Empress Markia I removed them from the throne and replaced them with Makrembolites dynasty. This revolt also shattered the Byzantine Empire, with much of its territory declaring independence and splitting from the ruler in Constantinople. The Muslims to the East exploited this shattered political landscape, and captured large portions of Anatolia in the period between 1248 and 1270. Cognizant of their relative weakness and tenuous position, many of the rulers who had declared independence in 1248 returned to Empire near the end of the 13th century. The Byzantine Empire is now once again a single political entity, and the Makrembolites enjoy relative stability and popularity. The Kingdom of Epirus in Greece, however, has yet to be reincorporated into the Empire, and the Basiliakos dynasty which rules it does not appear to be willing to return to Imperial domination.

Middle East:

  • The Elesbaam Sultanate stretches from the center of North Africa across Egypt, into the Arabian Peninsula and into Syria and the Levant. It was originally ruled by the Fatimid dynasty, who expanded the borders of the Sultanate into Syria and Arabia following a number of successful wars against a splintered Seljuk Sultanate and weak Arabian tribes. They also managed to fight and win a Jihad in Sicily, where they would rule until a Crusade expelled them 1040. In 1134 the Fatimids were overthrown and the Bardawilid dynasty took the throne. The sultanate was weakened from internal instability during the rule of the Bardawilid, however, and their reign did not last long: following a number of revolts during the 1150s the Elesbaam dynasty came into power in 1163. Under Elesbaam rule the sultanate was consolidated, the power of the sultan was centralized, and his authority increased. During the 1280s, the Elesbaam recaptured much of North Africa which had been earlier lost to Sicily, exploiting the instability and civil war which was paralyzing Sicily during that decade. The Elesbaam Sultanate stretched the domain of Shi’ism, and the Fatimid Shia Caliphs still enjoy a high position in the Elesbaam court. However, much of Arabia at present is  Mu’tazilite, which is a Sunni heresy.
  • The Persian Sultanate, which stretched across Persia and into Anatolia, experienced a number of advances and setbacks from the period of 1066 to 1180 under the rule of the Seljuk dynasty. The Seljuks captured large swaths of Byzantine territory throughout the 11th century and in the early 12th century expanded northward into the Caucasus to capture and destroy the Kingdom of Georgia. They also spread Sunni Islam throughout the region. The expansion of the authority of the Seljuk Sultans, however, was highly unpopular with the ruling nobility of the Sultanate, and political instability was rife during the middle and towards the end of the 12th century. In 1180, a massive revolt against Seljuk rule overthrew them and replaced them with the Abolhassan dynasty, but they too were unable to quell the anger of the Persian nobility and were themselves overthrown in 1189 and replaced by the Hussain dynasty. The Hussain ruled a much weakened and unstable Persia until 1220, when the Mongol Ilkhanate appeared from the East and swiftly captured much of its territory. As the Persian sultanate disintegrated, its Western holdings were either incorporated into the Elesbaam Sultanate or declared independence. The Al-Shami Sultanate in Anatolia was the largest and most prominent of these successor states, though a number of revolts against Al-Shami rule in the later 13th century saw a number of smaller sultanates, such as the Kartli Sultanate in the Caucasus and the Orhan Sultanate just South of that declare their independence. When the Byzantine Empire experienced its period of disintegration through the latter half of the 13th century, the Al-Shami Sultanate exploited the situation and expanded quite significantly farther West into Anatolia.
  • The Golden Horde appeared in 1228, and soon incorporated and captured much of the territory won by the Mongol Ilkhanate early in the 13th century. They spread rapidly across Persia, destroying any of political entities that they crossed. However, they were halted in the latter half of the 13th century when confronted with the borders of the Elesbaam Sultanate and Kotyan Khanate, which were both significant military adversaries and which could cause the Mongols many military and strategic setbacks. In  1280, facing internal pressures from the Muslim population it dominated, the ruling class of the Golden Horde converted to Sunni Islam. The Golden Horde continues its expansion Westward in the present day, albeit at a slower pace and with more caution facing the large political entities right on its border.



Introspection # 4: “The Importance of Accurate History”


The Influence of Shame, ‘Aidōs’, in The Iliad


  1. Lodewijk Gonggrijp

    This game is the best. Infinite replayability.

  2. Cassidy Moon

    I’m just wrapping up a HRE play-through, it’s taught me enough to write a book on. Would you be willing to let me post a summary of it, in the form you’ve got here, on your blog?

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