Book III, Chapter 3
In the aftermath of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Byzantine Roman Empire had inherited the full formalized legal and political structure of the old Roman Empire itself, without needing to reinvent it. This structure gave it the internal cohesion it needed to maintain its political and military strength. As part of that political strength, the Empire was noted for playing its various rivals and neighbors off against one another in order to keep threats at bay.
One of the core aspects of Byzantine military policy was their use of diplomacy and foreign influence in the furtherance of military strategy. They maintained active ambassadors with every neighboring state and many that were further away, and did not hesitate to meddle in the internal affairs of other states.
This made the Byzantine Bureau of Barbarians (Greek: Skrinion tōn Barbarōn) an office of considerable influence and importance in the intricate bureaucratic and political structures of the Byzantine government, and it did its job masterfully. Suspected of having been the espionage office of the Empire by modern scholars, it was, officially, a protocol office for dealing with the ways of foreigners. However, the office also maintained lists of rivals to foreign thrones, and would happily supply those individuals with money and support if it looked as if the current throne-holder might become a threat, or possibly merely uncooperative.
The Empire also made use of a similar tactic on a larger scalesupporting rival states if their neighbors threatened the Empire. If the Rus' threatened war, then the Pechenegs could be subsidized. If the Bulgarians grew restive, then the Rus' could be contacted and favors called in. A noted exemplar of such divide-and-conquer tactics was Emperor Heraclius, who once intercepted a note from the Persian king ordering the execution of a general and his staff. The emperor added 400 names to the execution list and sent the note on its way, and watched as the Persian empire fought itself to put down the rebellion that ensued.
Another example of such manipulation occurred when it came to light that Sigurd Trondsson (see Chapter 21: The Dragon Riders) was actually Snotlout clan Jorgenson, effectively next in line to inherit the chiefdom of Berk after Hiccup clan Haddock and his issue. The Bureau
— Constantinople: The Child of Rome's Empire, Venice, Italy, 1725
Tropes That Appear In This Chapter:
- Crisis of Faith: Fintan reveals to Roisin that he has experienced this trope. Roisin apparently also had experienced this trope at some point in her life."You remember the priest that Tuathel had look at what he approved of, and what Chief Hákon and Chieftess Gunvor do. I I've been considering praying to their gods," he said. "Christ never heard our prayers, but this Thor and Odin seemed to have." He looked at her sadly. "How many nights did we offer fevered prayers for our freedom? Only to be told by the priest that the way to salvation was doing what he told us to, and leave the prayer to him?"She swallowed hard, and nodded. Fintan knew that her faith was born more from fear and the abuses of youth than from well, faith, and he walked over and knelt in front of the chair. "Sheena if you wish to get married in the Church, I will do it, for you. But I can't be of the Church any longer. Do you understand?"
- Easily Forgiven: After they're told how Wulfhild was coerced into making wedding vows to Hiccup after he married Astrid, Hiccup and Astrid forgive Wulfhild, although it's implied that it was a good thing Wulfhild was out of the room when they were told, as Astrid apparently nearly attacked Magnus.
- Internal Reveal: A few happen in this chapter.
- Fintan tells Roisin about his Crisis of Faith.
- Hiccup and Astrid tell Wulfhild that they love her, and Wulfhild in turn reveals that she loves them.
- Wulfhild is told by Hiccup and Astrid about Father Henriksson's machinations.
- Mythology Gag: When faced with Father Henriksson's machinations, Wulfhild asks, "Now what will you do about this?" Astrid comments, "That's usually my line."