To start this off I will dispel preconceptions: Africa had great empires and was not technologically inferior to Europe before the invention of guns. They had quilted armor (the equivalent of gambeson) and metal armor - it wasn't wide spread, but there was chain armor, and plate armor in one area of Africa.

My alt-history story: a Byzantine empire equivalent (this isn' set on Earth) starts encroaching on the "African" empire's land and pushes farther.
How would you justify all 10 empires / kingdoms of the time to form an alliance and fight the "Byzantines"?

The question gets complicated because, just like Europe, Africa has a lot of ethnic groups that don't get along. This is important because of trade - these ethnic groups would not trade with one another so each empire's armor and weapons won't be used for their standing armies.
One empire may have plate armor but the others won't and without it their armies would be subpar.

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    $\begingroup$ What ten empires? The only states with extensive African territory with which the actual late Roman Empire (= "Byzantines") had anything to do with were the Axumite Empire (centered on Ethiopia and Yemen) and Arab Empire. The Roman Empire never fought with Axum (the relationship was quite peaceful) and the Arabs, well, they took over the northern African possession of the Greeks who called themselves Romans. I know of no other power which held extensive possessions in African in the relevant timeframe and which might have had any interaction with the late Roman Empire. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 4, 2020 at 7:03
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP That my friend is not true there was the Mali Empire near northern Africa who were around the same time as the Byzantines. There was the Nigerian yorobu and igbo empires . there was the benin empire who at least had contact with the Mali empire. Axum of course . the Kanem or Bornu empire. Also a few small kingdoms here and there. $\endgroup$
    – neo flare
    May 4, 2020 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ @LiJun: All those so-called empires are very late. The oldest of them, the Ghana "empire", is only attested from the 9th century; by that time the Roman (Byzantine) Empire had been thoroughly beaten by the Arabs and had lost all its African possessions. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 4, 2020 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ I'm unsure what the history of Africa has to do with an entirely fictional planet and the invented scenario set there. $\endgroup$
    – rek
    May 4, 2020 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ @F1Krazy: Of course they can be as fictitious as Wakanda; the problem is that if the question refers to unspecified fictitious empires on an underscribed fictitious continent existing in an alternative history, then it becomes impossible to answer. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 4, 2020 at 12:53

3 Answers 3


Coalition warfare is one of the Strategist's oldest problems

What your alt history world is facing is what sovereign states have faced since at least as long ago as Sumer and Babylon. A nation or a kingdom has to appeal to another nation or kingdom and convince them to risk their blood and treasure for {a reason}. A great model for you to use to apply this coalition warfare problem to your scenario is the period from 1789 to 1815 in Europe. Why?

It was the period of coalition warfare (against Revolutionary France) - it took Six Coalitions to finally defeat Bonaparte, and between times the alliances shifted and moved as the motives and goals of each crowned head in Europe changed.

We used that period at Staff College to consider core problems in coalition warfare. (We also examined The Peloponnesian War and WW II). What makes the Napoleonic / Revolutionary period a great model for you is that there was a profound cultural motivation to oppose Revolutionary France: the French Republic's goal was in direct opposition to the cultural baseline of the ancien regime in that it sought a fundamental change in how society is structured - (1) no more family owned kingdoms and (2) a reduced role of the church in the social structure, or even its removal from it.

Let's apply that tension to your Byzantine versus African analogues in your fictional world.

Step 1: establish what about this Byzantine-style Empire is profoundly different from the culture of the ten kingdoms / empires who oppose it

  • Let's pick a couple of easy ones: religion and language.

    Monotheism (of a sort) Byzantine practices versus polytheism and / or animism (of a sort), and even a collection of all of them among the ten kingdoms.

    All of the African-analogue nations have something like a Romance Language relationship to one another's languages. They have established a lingua franca and are able to easily communicate with each other, regardless of how much they dislike each other. The Byzantines, on the other hand, speak some barbaric tongue with an indecipherable script / alphabet ...

Step 2: Despite their differences, all of the kingdoms agree that they don't want that (language, religion, both) jammed down their throats.

Result? They form an alliance against that, and when it's over they are either better friends than before or they fall into bickering again.

You can come up with a few more cultural taboos - those Byzantines practice human sacrifice! - which the African empires and kingdoms not only don't accept, but won't accept, to justify why they ally against this foreign threat.

All they need to be is good friends until the war is over: see the US and USSR versus Third Reich for a fine example of that. Afterwards, they can go back to their standard antipathy for one another.


How would you justify all 10 empires/ kingdoms of the time to form an alliance and fight the "Byzantines".

When you have to fight many fires, the bigger fire gets more attention, and a lot of ants can make a lion run away.

So, when there is a common enemy it's common sense to set aside the rivalries and form alliances.

For example when ottoman empire tried to get a bit on Europe, they united together and fought the common enemy in the battle of Lepanto.

Same did the Greek polis when the Persian empire attempted to expand in Greece.

This can happen in Africa in your world, too.

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    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that those alliance won't probably last long, because each party will use the alliance for it's own power. Greek polis allied themselves to fight Persians, but Athens used it to become powerful, too powerful in the eyes of Sparta, wich lead to peloponese war. The Holy league was disbanded after Venice make peace with ottoman empire, without the consultation of other member of the alliance. $\endgroup$
    – Kepotx
    May 4, 2020 at 9:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Kepotx, the United Nations fell apart into the "Western allies" and the "Soviet Union" before the ink was dry on the Japanese Instrument of Surrender. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    May 4, 2020 at 21:44

Berber Muhammad

In your world, instead of an Arab, God chooses a Berber prophet to be His messenger and spread the truth of a new religion over civilization. The Berber Muhammad starts in North Africa, and his influence spreads across the Mediterranean coast, down the Nile and if you like, down the Atlantic coast to Nigerian kingdoms there. He unites the countries via religion in the same way Muhammad did, and leads them in a war of conquest against the Byzantines in the same period that the Arab conquests occurred in our world.

  • $\begingroup$ While your answer is a neat idea, he's trying to find a reason for the ten African kingdoms/empires to unite; this suggestion means that they've already been conquered. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2020 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ @KorvinStarmast - how so? I thought they were uniting under the prophet. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    May 12, 2020 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ As I read the problem statement in the question, they are not united, but are rather rivals. How would you justify all 10 empires / kingdoms of the time to form an alliance and fight the "Byzantines"? There aren't 10 empires/kingdoms if the Berber Prophet has already conquered them; they are part of the Berber Caliphate that is a peer empire to the Byzantines. (But I love your idea of a Berber leading the original jihad and heading east ...) $\endgroup$ May 12, 2020 at 23:24

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