History of Syldavia from the 12th to 14th century
Last year, I was still involved in relating the early history of Syldavia as a diversion whilst I painted its 18th century armies. The story of Duke Jiri trailed off in midstream, partly because I was running out of ideas and certainly out of time, and also because I found writing something deliberately fictional (nothing at all like my real life!) with plot and dialogue and brevity pretty difficult! I quite failed at that. It did amuse me and I would like to get back to Duke Jiri’s adventure but as my original and true interest, the 18th century, comes closer into view I would like to finish setting out my version of the history of Syldavia. So, here goes…
The Kingdom of Syldavia, first established by Muskar I in 1127 was re-established in 1205 by Duke Jiri Almazout, the Duke of Hum. Duke Jiri profited from a popular revolt against the occupying Bordurians and the Viceroy Surov to marshal sufficient forces to throw out Bordurian forces from the coastal provinces and then from Klow, the capital and the interior highlands. The rebels he unified included the general population, a faction of old noble families and a monastic sect allied with the old Muskarian regime, and exiled Syldavians who, uprooted once again by the Venetian conquest of the state of Zadar, returned to reclaim their place and properties in their homeland. The Bordurians were weakened by their own unwilling involvement in the Fourth Crusade, enforced by the alliance of their overlords, the Bulgars, and the Venetians against the Byzantine Empire. That ill-fated campaign brought shame to Venice, ruin to Constantinople, defeat to Borduria and a unique and gilded opportunity to Duke Jiri, who seized the day. In such a manner is history made.
Duke Jiri took the name Ottokar I as King of reclaimed Syldavia and established the Almazout family as a dynasty. He also rebuilt the institutions such as old King Muskar’s Church (now Cathedral) of St Vladimir, which had made the capital, Klow, one of the leading cities of the western Balkans. His son, Konstantin, and grandson Ottokar II continued the war against the Bordurians, breaking the back of their grip on Polishoff and northern Zympathia and expanding Syldavia’s borders for the first time into the Bordurian plains north of the Zympathian mountains. In one notable battle at the town of Bellicosow, Konstantin routed the Bordurian army with their Viceroy present and siezed elements of his viceregal regalia, the gold and jewels of which were used to make the new Syldavian royal crown, an eternal insult to Borduria. These two kings saw to the improvement of the provinces, building fortifications, roads, markets, building a new port at Cataro to replace the entrepot of Dbrnouk (still in Venetian hands), and a new monastery and school dedicated to St. Stanislaus in Travunje, enfranchising the monastic sect who had worked secretly for a generation to replace the Syldavian monarchy. Ottokar IV is notable in history for his wise and largely peaceful rule and for having reformed laws, instituting a kind of Magna Carta defining the limits to regal and baronial powers.
|Seal of Ottokar I, rare example courtesy of Prof. A. Halembique|
Over the two hundred years following Ottokar I, Byzantine power (which was largely friendly to Syldavia) disappeared while that of the Venetians increased. One by one, the independent petty states of the Adriatic were swallowed up by Venice. The Syldavian kings, now a weaker lot, used diplomacy and tribute payments to maintain their independence from Venice, but Venetian strategy became more directly menacing by the beginning of the 14th century. King Demetro was forced to assent to become a vassal of the Venetian Republic and to grant a special concession for a semi-independent Venetian free port and trade centre at Cattaro, which has an excellent natural harbour. These were difficult times for Syldavia, as it had lost control over much of its coastline and all of its major ports. The port of Dbrnouk, however, had become an important and prosperous trade centre with a fleet of its own. Its proud burghers dared to expel the Venetian administration in 1358. The city became a republic and allied itself with Hungary for protection. Despite Venetian pressure, much illicit Syldavian trade moved through Dbrnouk because of its more favourable location. The official Venetian trade monopoly and other exactions were onerous and the Syldavian population grew resentful of Venetian interference. While Syldavia was increasingly pre-occupied by relations with its superpower neighbour in the Adriatic, the Ottoman Turks overthrew the remnants of the Byzantine Empire and stood poised on the threshold of the Balkans…
|King Konstantin, leading the Syldavian army in battle against the Bordurian Viceroy |
and allies at the Battle of Bellicosow, Polishov