The society of the Empire
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Author:  Grettir [ Mon Feb 04, 2008 6:25 pm ]
Post subject:  The society of the Empire

Here I give a sketchy outline of society in the Seat of the Xanarian Empire. It is mostly based on Roman late antiquitiy, down to the terms honestiores and humiliores, and will be expanded. But first I would like some feedback, no the least of which on the pronounciation of the “Xanarian” terms – do they roll to awkwardly from the tongues of native speakers of English? A bit of awkwardsness would be ok, it’s a foreign language, but too much is not desirable.

Edit:As of the time of this edit (20th april), the first six posts of this thread have in a slightly updated form been made available as a download. If you are new to this thread, spare yourself the troubles of reading the first six posts and go to the download right away.

An Outline of the Imperial Society

To understand the workings of contemporary Imperial society, it is necessary to take a look at how it evolved, at what it was once.

In the ancient days, before Xanarium blossomed into the seat of a powerful empire, it was a city state ruling only the lands in its direct vicinity and having a typical iron age society, with the one exception that already these early Xanarians thought of themselves as a Chosen People; chosen not for world domination, as they could not yet guess at this, but chosen by Xanar as his most beloved people. Early Xanarian legends tell of the Xanarians being the Shardfinder’s direct descendants.

When, during the early Age of the Third Moon, the people of the city state of Xanarium conqured the first of their neighbours, the foundation stone for a society with many strata was laid. The Xanarians had not completely defeated their neighbours and were also not interested in this – they did not want to absorb them, they just wanted to subject them. A contract was drawn up between the two people, a contract of allainces, but of a forced and unequal allaince – the conquered one were to have complete independence in all domestic affairs, but they had to give up any foreign policy of their own, and they had to pay tribute to Xanarium and supply it with a set amount of soldiers, if asked.
The Xanarians did not yet know it, but this contract was only the first among many dozens that were to follow during thre subsequent two centuries. City state after city state the Xanarians subjugated the entire peninsula of Fregella, and with every vanquished foe they drew up a similar contract, turning them into a state somewhere between an ally and a a subject, but with domestic independence. These contracts were similar, but far from identical – those that had yielded earlier or maybe even without resistance got much better conditions than those who had resisted to the last or maybe even risen up against Xanarium once again. The difference in these contracts led to the so-called allied Fregellans being jealous or spiteful of each other, rather than uniting against the common foe, Xanarium.
Thus the Xanarians conquered the entire peninsula of Fregella without the conquered people becoming Xanarians. The Xanarians were still an elite group, the people of Xanarium and the surrounding lands, the descendents of Most Holy Xanar.

The first change in this state of affairs came about during the latter decades of the Age of the Third Moon, when the Xanarians conquered the first island in the Sea of Fallen Gods. This island was ettled by the ancestors of the modern Helenans, and when Xanarium had conquered them, it became sharply aware that they had now entered upon new political territory. The conquered people of Fregella had been very similar to them, speaking the same language, even venerating Xanar Shardbringer as they did themselves; those people were kin – the Helenans were not. And while the early Xanarians were by no means rascists, they still felt that they could not continue forever as they had previously, as the new conquests were bound to be farther and farther from Xanarium and ever harder to control by means of alliances alone. For these two reasons, the Xanarians installed the first of many provinces of their fledgling Empire. The newly conquered land was in its entirety made the possession of the Xanarian people, without even domestic independence and to be ruled by a governor sent from Xanarium.
The Fregellan allies of the Xanarians profited greatly from this arrangement. Speaking the same language as the Xanarians and sharing their culture, they provincials mostly thought of them as Xanarians, with all benefits attached to being a member of the ruling people. Xanarium prospered, but so did the Fregellans. But this was only of two reasons that made the Xanarians and its allies grow ever more attached to each other. The other was the growth of the Empire itself. As ever new and stranger people were subjugated by their legions, the Xanarians become ever sharper aware of their close kinship with the Fregellans – for were they not sons of the peninsula of Fregella themselves? In 610 Weyr, they extended Xanarian citizenship to all Fregellans, making the allied people who had helped them conquer the provinces partners in ruling them. All the people of the peninsula of Fregella were now Xanarians, ruling the subjects in the provinces.
Every situation is only ever a moment within a development, and so this situation, too, was not last. In the conquered provinces, there were individuals, families or clans and in rare instances even entire tribes or cities who had long been friends of the Xanarians, faciliating the conquest rather than hindering it. With the legal status and the privileges of the former allied Fregellans having become pointless after their elevation to full citizenship, the practical Xanarians decided to confer this status and privileges on their friends in the provinces. As early as 611, the first Fregellarii (singular Fregellarius, meaning "Fregellan") were created in the province of Helena, people who had never even seen the peninsula. The name Fregellarius had become merely the denominator for a certain legal status halfway between Xanarian and subject.
In the course of the following centuries, the Empire grew ever more, and after centuries of exposure to their Xanarian masters and being converted, the subject people became ever more “Xanariarized”. During the 8th century, more and more people were graced with the legal privilege of Fregellan status, and finally, early in the Age of the Fifth Moon, the first few provincial Fregellarii, those who were deemed loyal and most important locally, were granted full status as Xanarians. Both trneds continued, and by the early 10th century, there were no subjected provincials left; all inhabitants of the Empire were either Fregellarii, or, much rarer, Xanarians. By this was not the end of it. By the turn of the millennium, the Xanarians were actually the slight majority within the Empire, the Fregellans being less than half the entire populace. Therefore, Xanarian citizenship was in the Holy Year of 1000 Weyr extended to all inhabitants of the Empire.

But that doesn’t mean that the Xanarian Empire had become a paradise of equal rights. Xanarian citizenship had only been extended to everybody as it had already become meaningless, the legal and jurisdictional privileges connected with it long since eroded, this in turn being a result of more and mor people enjoying the privileges connected with Fregellanship and Xanarianship. As is always the case, the social elites looked for new devices to close off their ranks against the masses.
Original Xanarian privileges that had been eroded were fiscal benefits (exemption of all direct taxes and reduced indirect ones) and legal ones (the right to be tried only before Xanarian jufges and a Xanarian grand jury). With the Empire growing and more and more people enjoying them, they became highly impractical, leading to them being at first limited and than transferred to only a limited group within the populace. This select group became soon known a the Honestiores (singular honestior), the “more honourable ones”, whereas the othere were spoken of as the Humiliores (singular humilior), the “lesser ones”. This is until today the main distibguishing line between Imperial citizens.

The honestiores are what foreigners think about when referring to Xanarians, most of them being unaware even of the existence of the humiliores. What now are the privileges of the honestiores?

The most prized one is of a legal nature, access to proper courts, were advocates maneuver, witnesses are heard and appeals are possible; most importantly, the courts are not allowed to use torture on them in trying to find the truth, as they do with humiliores. The latters' quarrels are only ever tried by local magistrates, who are by law required to use the laws in an impartial way, but who are most of the time much too overworked to allow the contending parties the timeconsuming luxury of advocates, and against whose verdict no appeal is possible. Many magistrates try to be fair, but none of them have the time for drawn-out proceedings, and verdicts are found within only a single short session. Magistrates are by law not allowed to take gifts from supplicants, but this law is so eroded that gifts for judges are now customarily absolutely required; even the most impartial and fair magistrate will invariably feel personally slighted if somebody appearing before him fails to offer a pecuniary token of his respect. It need not be said that the amount of respect accorded a judge has customarily very strong impact on the judge’s verdict.
Honestiores on the other hand can deal with a much more thourogh an much fairer legal system. Gifts for the judges are expected from them as well, but they carry much less impact, as their proceedings take often up many sessions and involve lawyers resorting to all nuances of the law. In short, honestiores can expect to get a much fairer verdict than humiliores. Should the lawcase be between an honestior and a humilior, it need not be pointed out that the humilior has next to no chances to win the day, even if the evidence favours him most blatantly.

Another benefit of the honestiores is free choice of occupation, something the vast majority of the humiliores does not enjoy. This restriction developed during the first century of the Age of the Sixth Moon. In these days of civil wars and economic catastrophes, the Empire was required to raise the taxes ever more. This reached a point were the taxes a farmer had to pay became so high that even a single poor harvest ruined him. Evading debt-slavery, many farmers abandoned their fields. Which only aggravated the Empire’s economical problems. The government’s answer to this making the abandoning of fields a capital offence. Farmers were required by the law to till their fields, and to provide for a son to follow after them. In addition, these obligations were also spread out amongst the community; if a farmer had no son, some other son of the same community would be forced to inherit his lands and carry on tilling them. To ensure that the farmers would enforce this themselves, taxation was changed to be per village community. A village is taxed a certain amount depending on the number of farmsteads in it, and the village has to pay this amount, no matter if all of these farmsteads are inhabited or not. Thus it is in the villagers best interest to police each other so that no family makes a run for it, as every untilled field increases the fiscal pressure on the others.
But this system did not remain limited to the farmers alone. Many occupations which are important either for feeding the population or for keeping it strong economically and militarily were made hereditary by law, among them miller, baker, butcher, smith, shipwright, cartwright, stonemason and glassblower. To this end the colleges into which these occupational groups had organised themselves were employed. The government seized their member lists and decreed that everyone on it was not allowed to leave his occupation, and that he had to provide for a successor, the ultimate responisbility for both of which was shifted to the college itself, as had been done with the villages and the farmers.
In this way, the entire rural and almost half of the urban population of humiliores has no free choice of occupation whatsoever. The honestiores on the other hand have no such restraints. Quite a few of them are independently rich and need not work for a living, but the majority still has to, even though their families are almost always quite well off. Honestiores who do have an occupation do often become civil servants, priests, doctors, architects, scholars, merchants or military officers.

At this point it is important to stress that the Empire does not have a caste system, only that some professions have been judged to be of too high importance for the general populace to let them go vacant. It is only these professions where father has to follow son without fail, a woodcutter’s or potter’s or sailor’s son is as free in his choice of occupation than an honestior. But as the vast majority of the population is being occupied with the production, processing and transportation of foodstuffs, this means that at least 90% of the families in the Seat of the Xanarian Empire are effected by this limitation.

Another benefit of being an honestior is the right to vote, both actively and passively. On a purely local level, for town and country administration, the right to cast a vote is also shared by certain elites within the humiliores, though not the right to be voted into office. The exclusive right to vote and run for the Empire’s great magistracies and thus for the Senate is limited to the honestiores alone.

Being an honestior has one advantage, at least for those of a certain wealth and prominence, even though it might at first seem a severe drawback. These individuals are held accountable for collecting the taxes. The government gives them the responsibility for a certain number of villages and allots these villages a certain amount of tax; it is then completely within the honestior's responsibility that this amount is delivered. To make the people pay up, the honestior is given certain executive and jurisdictional powers over them. If the communities fail to raise the required sum, the honestior has to pay the missing amount. At least in theory. The practice is that the responisible magistrate does often work together with the honestior; he gives false evaluations of the yield to be expected from the country and assignss the honestior a low amount of taxes to be raised. The responsible honestior squeezes the people for much more, for all they are worth, and splits the profit with the magistrate. These major honestiores do often live almost like feudal lords, residing in fortified country villas and entertaining small private armies of strongmen. These well-equpped ruffians are well hated by the general populace, who call them Bucellarii (singular bucellarius, meaning biscuit-man, a term of envy aimed at their good diet).
These proceedings are an open secret. Every now and then an idealistic Senator tries to stem this kind of corruption, but as all senators are honestiores and most of them cut great profit from collecting taxes in this way, nothing much gets ever underfoot.

The distinction in honestiores and humiliores is one way of splitting the people of the Xanarian Empire in two groups. The honestiores are once again subdivided along the lines of wealth, into those having to work for their – usually still comfortable – living and those who don’t. The humiliores are also no homogenouus mass. The differnce between those bound tho their families’ jobs (everybody in the countryside, almost half in the towns) and thse free to choose has already been pointed out, and another differnce hinted at: The most prominent ones among them may vote on a local level. This is mostly the officials of the colleges, and the colleges and the system of patronage are two more facets of the Xanarian social system to be looked at – soon.

Author:  Grettir [ Tue Feb 05, 2008 12:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The society of the Empire

Two social institutions tie the Imperial society together, one vertically, the other horizontally. This are the system of patronage and the professional colleges.

Every Imperial citizen who works for a living is a member of a professional college, a so-called Collegium (plural collegia). These collegia are in a way similar to guilds, which are in fact modeled on the Imperial collegia, as they are corporations of all the people in an area sharing the same profession. Virtually all professions are organized into collegia, even civil servants, priests and soldiers. Like with guilds, members pay a usually small regular membership fee, and the officials of the college represent its members and their professional interests to the authorities. Even though most collegium officials are humiliores, they are accorded a measure of respect even by honestiores, and are also allowed to cast their votes in regional elections. In theory, officials are elected by the members, but in practice these votes follow the recommendations of the officials already in office, so that their ranks are much rather filled by cooptation. This is not so much an outshoot of corruption, but rather a rather reasonable device, ensuring that members with the right connenctions to move something for the college are elected instead of merely popular members.
Even more than guilds, the collegia have an integrative social function. The members of a collegium have a very strong communal and corporate feeling, which is constantly reinforced by communal meals – at the very least twice a month – and by public appearances, mostly processions in the course of religious festivals. The average member of a collegium spends at least four evenings a month in the company of his colleagues, almost always in a festive spirit. This, and the common interests shared by its members, bonds them together very closely; for most Imperial citizens the collegium is the most important social group they belong to after their core family, even more important than cousins, uncles or similar relatives, and also more important than all but the most close of friends. In fact, collegia are so important as a social group that Imperial citizens have very few friends from outside their collegium.
A major difference to guilds is that entering a collegium is very simple. If you are of the right profession, ask for admission and pay a very moderate fee, you are in. Getting out again is what may be more difficult. Many occupations in the Xanarian Empire are compulsorily hereditary, and the authorities use the collegia of these occupations to police this. Collegia are assigned a certain production quorum; if they cannot meet it, they are fined heavily. Therefore, collegia are always eager to swell their ranks, even if this is only ever a temporary reprieve; every few years, the membership lists are reviewed by the authorities, and when an increase in membership is noted, the production quorum is also adjusted upwards. Along the same lines of governmental control, leaving a collegium of one of the “occupations of public interest” is also impossible, even if one joined willingly – once in, never out. And members do also have to produce a successor who will take up their place after their death. The duty to police this is also shifted from the authorities to the collegium; even if a collegium’s membership somehow decreases, the production quorum assigned to them is still not adjusted downwards.
The compulsiveness of memebership in certain collegia does nothing to diminish their members’ identification with it; quite the contrary is true, members view each as brothers in woe, which bonds them together even more closely.
As the collegia are so central to people’s lifes, this has led to very high professional ethics on the part of their members. The members stick together and help each other out, try to produce goods of high quality to glorify the name of their collegium and take great pride in their membership and in the achievements of their collegium. For most Xanarians used to the collegium system, not being the member of one seems like a very terrfiying prospect indeed.

The institution tying the society together vertically is patronage. Apart from fiercely independent Imperial citizens, everybody strives to have a powerful patron, somebody to champion their interests, protect them and help them during hard times, both with advice and materially. A patron is usually one or two rungs up the social ladder from his “client” (as is the proper term) and is in turn himself the client of a more powerful patron. Even minor senators are clients themselves, in their case of the most powerful senators.

What are a client’s benefits? Manifold. A patron will sometimes give him dinner, lend him money if in need, write him letters of introduction, give him the odd gift, maybe offer him employment, use what influence he has with the authorities on his client’s behalf, give him advice if asked for, and many other similiar things. Having a patron is good, and all the better if the patron is a powerful individual.

But what’s in it for the patron? For once, he can expect minor service from his clients, whatever may be withintheir power, but first and foremost it is about, prestige. Having many clients is the prime indicator of importance, even more so, if the patrons are men of significance themselves; the more clients a patron has and the more important they are, the higher his social standing. To show this to the world, clients have two duties to their patrons: Giving them an escort and greeting them in the morning. Clients are expected to drop by their patron’s lodging every day first thing in the morning and wish him a fine day. Patrons with a large number of clients will usually not require all of them to drop by every day, every few days will be enough in thse cases, unless the patron suffers from some kind of minority complex and demanding full attendance every day. These daily greetings are also the prime time for clients to approach their patrons with their problems and wishes.
A patron’s second benefit related to his prestige is his clients giving him an escort if he asks them to. When a patron makes some kind of public appearance, he can choose to be surrounded by the most important of his clients; this is a very visible marker of a patron’s significance in his community. This is of course most important for politicians; the public appearance of a major senator can be impressive indeed, when he chooses to be surrounded by a full train of minor senators, high military officers, powerful civil servants and rich magnates, all of them his clients and fawning on him publicly. It is readily apparent to everybody that this senator is a man of substance, able to move the entire Empire by simple calling in what are minor services from his powerful clients.
Which leads right to the main benefit clients provide for honestiores of some substance. It goes without saying and is a matter of fundamental Xanarian honour that clients vote in the elections in exacty the way their patrons want them to. This is how a few major senators control the entire Senate; by means of their clients and their client’s clients they control huge voter blocks. As long as the major Senators are not at odds, they decide the outcome of all votes and elections among themselves. The social obligation to vote in the way dictated is over a millennium old and deeply ingrained in the Xanarians – going against a patron’s wishes does not only call for retaliation, as all votes are cast publicly, it is also akin to the breaking of a very powerul taboo. If the major patrons wanted, they could have their clients cast votes to abolish all future elections – but why should they, when they already control the elections completely?

How does one become a somebody’s client? The traditional way is to approach somebody uninvolved in the situation one is currently and ask a major boon of him; if this boon is granted, patronage is established automatically, no matter if it was specifically asked for. As everybody can only ever have one patron, the social mores forbid somebody from asking a boon of another person than one’s patron. Even if this strict custom was broken the boon asked for would in all likelihood not be granted if the prospective patron should happen to know that the supplicant is already somebody else’s client; strong social censure exists for stealing away somebody else’s clients.
Two easier ways to establish patronage are inheritance and liberation of slaves. A liberated slave is automatically the client od his former master, and a patron’s main heir inherits all his clients. The clients have no say in this – when their patron dies, his heir does automatically become their new patrons. This helps by the way to explain why certain families have controlled the Senate for centuries – they leave their powerful clients and thus their voting blocks to their descendants.

But how is patronage revoked? Well, a patron can simply withdraw his protection from a client. Should a patron do this without his patron having failed him in a major way, this will damage the reputation of a patron very much. Clients seek out a patron for help and protection, for security; a patron who withdraws his protection without good reason is incalculable and thus offers no security. A patron who does so will therfore have difficulties attracting new clients.
For a client, ending this relationship with his patron is less easy. He can simply desert his patron, as already mentioned, but this means that he will most probably have great difficulties to find another patron, and he might also attract the vengeance of his former patron. Especially patrons whose poweris failing are very given to exacting revenge on traiterous clients, so as to demonstrate the consequences of deserting him to his remaining clients; patrons at the height of their power will often be more lenient and simply demonstrate their aloofness to such by thoroughly ignoring the traitor’s misdeed.
Another possibilty to end the patronage is to simply ask a patron for the permission to leave. As patronage is one the building blocks of Imperial society, this permission is only rarely granted, and the former cleint might also encounter difficulties in finding himself a new patron. The only fully accepted method of leaving a patron is visibly outgrowing him, either by the patron becoming more powerful or by the patron’s importance decreasing. When a patron is no longer able to extend benefits to a client which are of some substance or somebody of the client’s social standing, the client is jsutified in leaving;. A client’s reason to become a client I the first place is after all the reception of tangible benefits; if the patron is no longer able to provide them, there is no more reason for the patronage and the client may leave and look around for a new, more efficient patron. Sometimes this happens due to a client getting richer and more important, but just as often this happens when a patron’s power is failing. Should this ever happen, patrons will do their utmost to conceal this fact – clients leaving a patron are a clear sign of the patron’s impotence and usually just the beginning of a landslide of social and economic catastrophes.

Author:  Grettir [ Tue Feb 05, 2008 1:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The society of the Empire

The role of women in the Xanarian Empire has changed a lot since the beginnings. Originally, they were little more than their closest adult male relative’s wards, unable to do any legal business on their own and not allowed to work in any occupation. Over the course of the centuries, the strong male dominance eroded ever more; by the Age of the Fifth Moon, the social position of women in the Empire had largely evolved into what it is still today.

Women are still denied from holding any kind of office in the military, the administration and the clergy and they do not have the right to vote, neither actively nor passively, but apart from that, their rights are completely equal to men’s. They enjoy unlimited legal competence – they may own property and dispose over it in any way they see fit, without any interference from male relatives. Unladylike behaviour is of course frowned at and there is a strong social taboo against it, but in a strictly legal sense, women are allowed to do the same as men are. In wedlock, they are in no way beholden to their husbands, they can even get a divorce as the fancy strikes them and their spouses can do nothing to prevent this.

Imperial law knows little of the sanctity of marriage. Marriage, even among the poorest humiliores, is viewed as a kind of alliance, of people or families pooling their ressources. It can and often will be an affair of the heart, but this is past the issue, it is most of all an economic alliance, and this is how it is treated exclusively by the law. Women get a dowry from their closest male relatives, and the reason of this dowry is that it allows the husband to keep his wife. The dowry stays the woman’s property, but as long as the marriage is upright, it is the husband who may dispose of it, and all profit he cuts from it are his – in theory to be used to keep his wife. In the case of a divorce, the dowry will have to be returned to the wife. Any other property apart from the dowry that a spouses, both male or female, bring with them into wedlock, remains exclusively theirs, their spouse has no right to it whatsoever. As long as a marriage lasts a husband is theoretically required to keep his wife in a style fitting her station (this is what the dowry is for), but he cannot be forced to do so. If a partner is unhappy with his or her partner’s marital conduct, he can either take it or file for a divorce. A divorce is merely an administrative act before the nearest magistrate as witness; a partner declares his will to end the marriage and that’s that. The other partner need not even be present at the act, nor can he do the least to prevent it, nor does he even need to know about it for it to assume legal force. Any children always and invariably remain with the father, there is nothing to be done about that; even if a father does not want them, caring for them is his legal responsibility.
With divorces that simple, they are very common, at least among the honestiores, where both partners are often sufficiently well-off so as not to need a spouse’s support. While divorces almost do not happen at all among humiliores, most honestiores have multiple past marriages under their belt. Nobody raises an eyebrow about anybody for having been married several times, gossip is only attracted by somebody marrying more often than about five times. It needs to be stressed that multiple marriages do nothing to diminish a woman’s honour and decency, as long as they do not number much over five.
With the marriage being only something like a declaration of probably temporal alliance and nothing close to a solemn bond for life, the Imperial Church has no formal rites at all to bless it. Marriage celebrations are private affairs, held in private homes and not in temples, even though a priest ia almost always invited to bless the unity – but this doesn’t make the unity any holier than a ship being blessed before its first voyage does thereby become holy.

Children in the Empire are very much under the power of the father, not under the mother’s. Even though a father’s rights have been greatly checked since ancient times, he has still much leeway in treating his children. Short of killing or abandoning them, he can mistreat them in any way he wants, though most are of course no more callous than the next person. A mother has no legal rights to her own children, if the father wishes he can deny all contact beween them. Something a that a father cannot do to his children is disinherit them wtithout very grave reason; all natural children have a right to a set minimum portion of their father’s property, and all daughters have in addition a right to a minimum dowry, again determined by the father’s wealth.
Legal age in the Seat of the Xanarian Empire is 14 years for girls and 16 years for boys; in special circumstances, mostly when the father has deceased earlier, this can be lowered to 12 years or 14 years respectively. Humiliores usually enter upon their first (and most probably final) marriage within one or two years of reaching legal age, whereas honestiores tend to marry later in life; marrying earlier than with 16 years in the case of women and 20 years in the case of men is rare in the extreme.

Author:  Grettir [ Wed Feb 06, 2008 11:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The society of the Empire

Taxation, brigands and bountyhunters, and what they have in common

The Xanarian Empire is a fallen empire, even though it likes to view itself as an empire undergoing a temporal crisis. Still viewing itself as an empire it conducts what can only be called an imperial policy; for example, it maintains an army and a navy that are both in no proportion to its actual size. This, and the need to import basic foodstuffs, puts an immense financial strain on the Empire.

The Empire’s answer has been the same for several hundreds year, since before the end of the Holy War, and it is rigid taxation; the population of the Empire is squeezed for what it is worth. Organising and overseeing this itself would place a huge administrational burden on the government, so the government has devised a means to shift this burden; instead of taxing individuals, it taxes communities. Every year, civil servants called Fiscales (singular fiscalis) set tax quotas for every village and every professional college of the Empire, and it is the community’s responsibility to somehow raise this amount; the government isn’t interested in the least how big a burden does the single member of the community carry. And even though the fiscales are required by their superiors to set the highest tax levels possible but not to demand more than the communities are able to pay, the government does also not care if the set tax level proofes to be to high, as the system has an inbuilt failsave. Taxes are not collected by government officials, but by private citizens, rich local honestiores upon whom this responsibility and authority is forced. These honestiores are called Publicani (singular publicanus). Publicani receive certain executive powers over the members of the community for whose tax they are made responsible, so as to be able to collect it even against resistance. In addition to freeing the state from the burden of collecting the taxes itself, the main advantage of the publicanus-system for the government lies with the regulation that a publicanus has to pay over the full amount set by the civil servant; if he is unable to raise enough, he has to pay the missing amount out of his own coffers.

Initially, the publicanus-system was devised not only as a means to spare the state the expenses of collecting the taxes, but mainly as a device to fairness in taxation. It was thought that the rich publicani would frequently be required to make up for missing amounts; those who could afford it would thus have to contribute more than the poor. This scheme failed miserably. Most publicani soon teamed up with their local fiscalis in a kind of unholy alliance. The fiscalis would officially set the level of taxation rather low and report this low amount back to his superiors, but the publicanus would squeeze his tax payers as thoroughly as he could; at the end of the year he would hand over the required amount to the fiscalis to pass on to the treasury, while the rest wwould be split evenly between fiscalis and publicanus. Tax payers’ complaints would be useless, as it is the fiscalis himself with whom any complaints would have to be filed.
Corrupt publicani and fiscales have caused the Empire immense damage, and the government is well aware of this. Punishment for corruption in any of these walks of life is incredibly severe – capital punishment and forfeiture of all his possessions to the state for the offenders, loss of status as honestiores for any under-aged children of his. These draconic measures did stem the corruptin somewhat, though of course not completely; inofficial estimates of the treasury are that about half of the fiscales and publicani abuse their powers, and that about half of the offenders do so in a gross way.
After all this talk about corruption it should be mentioned that a minority of publicani are actually more than fair and do willingly contribute to the tax so as to somewhat ameliorate the huge pfiscal pressure put on the tax payers by the government.

A side effect of the almost obscene levels of taxation is that especially many farmers flee their farms. After having starved with their families through several dozen winters, they decide that it is simply not worth the toil and flee their lands, either alone or together with their families. Those who have hopes to make a living there make their way to the capital, but most of them fail. Once in the city, they swell the ranks of the urban poor, but other than them they have no hopes on cheap food to reduced prices – the Church has lists of those entitled to it, and new applicants must proofe not only that they are in need, but also that they are not runaway farmers. Most of those who fail in the city make their way back to the countryside and try their luck as vagabonds, thiefs and brigands, something that the more sensible tax refugees do right away.
The mountains and other remaining wildernesses of the Fregellan peninsula are therefore full of brigands, in bands numbering from a handful to those numbering well over 500 members. The larger ones of these bands are regular hidden communities, complete with women and children, as many refugees flee together with their entire families. It is not even rare that entire villages are deserted overnight in a concerted action of their inhabitants.
The taxation system of the Empire produces thus numerous and oftn huge bands of brigands, making overland travel quite dangerous, at least for honestiores. Humiliores have nothing whatsoever to fear from the brigands and are almost never molested, but the tale is entirely different for honestiores. Most brigands feel (rightly) that their lives have been ruined by the greed of the honestiores, and they hate the honestiores with a vengeance; woe to any honestior who runs afoul of brigands, a quick and painless death is the best he can hope for.

The government tries to combat the problem of farmers lurking in murderous bands in the woods instead of tilling their fields and paying taxes in four ways.
The first one is prevention, trying to appoint only fiscales and publicani of perceived honesty and making very gruesome public examples of all corrupt ones who get apprehended.
A second and very effective measures are amnesties. While deserting one’s farmstead is an offence punishable by crime, the government offers quite regularly, roughly once every five years, general amnesties to all brigands who give up their lives in the wilds and return to their farms before some set date. As most of the brigands are simple farmers who do not have the stomach for the hardships of live in the wilderness, many are glad to jump at this opportunity and do actually return.
The third means of combating the outlaws are infrequent big sweeps by the army. Often when the brigandage in a certain region reaches an unbearable extent, the army cordons off a large area and stages a huge battue. As the brigands are only farmers seldomly equipped with more than tools and farming implements, this is without any danger for the army and is actually viewed as excellent training.
And then there are bounty hunters, Venatores (singular venator). As brigandage is a crime punishable by death by crucifixion anyway, the government places a bounty on every killed brigand and thereby encourages private citizens to go hunting for outlaws. Veterans and thugs follow this invitation gladly and roam the wilds either alone or, more frequently, in small bands. They track and ambush brigands, delivering their severed heads to the authorities to collect their rewards. Many either are or else soon become experienced outdoorsmen. With brigandage that widespread, venatores are a very common sight in the rural regions of the Empire.

But even given all those countermeasures, brigandage still remains a huge problem for the Empire, much more so than for any other nation.

Author:  Grettir [ Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The society of the Empire

Slavery in the Seat of the Xanarian Empire

The history of slave labour in the Xanarian Empire and the history of the ruin of the Xanarian farmers and their reascendence go hand in hand, so they have to be related together.

Once, before the Xanarian conquest, almost the entire population of the city state of Xanarium subsisted from agriculture, as is only to be expected from an early iron age culture. The penisula of Fregella and especially the southern parts around Xanarium were very fertile and yielded record harvests, in turn leading to a high density of population. This may have been one of the key reasons allowing the Xanarians to erect their Empire – they were simply more numerous than their neighbours.
When Xanarium started its conquest of the penisula its legions of citizen-soldiers from the fertile fields marched out to subjugate Fregella. The legions were in the beginning defeated quite frequently, but new ones were obstinately recruited , until Xanarium was finally victorious. In the course of these conquests, huge numbers of prisoners of war flowed to Xanarium and were sold as slaves. The richest landholders were able to buy large numbers of slaves to till their fields, but the citizen-soldiers who had vanquished the foe weren’t; quite the contrary, a son’s or father’s absence from the farm brought ruin to many a farm. These were immediately bought at deflated prices by the great landholders, who had these lands farmed exclusively by slaves. This led to more and more farmers having to drop out of business as they couldn’t compete with the low production costs of the huge slave-worked farms. They moved to the city, after having sold their lands at a pittance – to the nearest great magnate. Centuries of this development led eventually to the complete ruin of the rural population of Fregella; it started to be felt in the later 4th century, continued throughout the 5th and accerlerated greatly with the huge foreign conquests of the 6th century. By 600 Weyr, it had finally come largely to an end; there were no free farmers left in all of Fregella.

At this point in the narrative it is worth pointing out that it was in part these desperate masses of impoverished former farmers who allowed Galerius Constans to usurp power as first Imperator in 606 Weyr. Many had hoped that he would at least in part dispossess the large landholders distribute their lands to the impoverished masses.

The following two centuries saw a change in the Xanarian treatment of their slaves. Where utter ruthlessness had held unchecked reign beforehand, it now became socially more and more unacceptable to utterly abuse and mistreat slaves. Laws were passed affording the slaves a minum of protection, and it became very fashionable to free ones slaves after some decades of servitude; in fact, people failing to do so started to acquire ponted reputations as cheapskates and misers. During these times, the wars of the 7th and 8th centuries ensured a steady influx of further slaves, but when the age of expansion came to a close around 800 Weyr, prisoners of war dried mostly up as a source of new slaves. With the recent changes in the treatment of slaves it was now also out of the question to breed them like cattle, as had sometimes be done in earlier times. The numbers of slaves in the Empire begin slowly, but steadily to dwindle; even legal reforms making slavery the punishment for many crimes could only slow this development down but not stem it.
The new state of affairs led to changes in the economical structure of the Empire. Great slave owners had used their slaves as a source of revenue, not only in cultivating fields, but also as skilled labour – and slaves in skilled labour were more profitable than agricultural slaves. With slave labour becoming scarce, the great slave owners chose not to employ them anymore in the less profitable sector of agriculture. Instead, the owners of the large domains started in the late 10th century to lease out their land to tenants. This new development was halted with the new influx of slaves from the Holy War, but when the war ground to a standstill, it resumed. Well before 1300 Weyr, there were no slaves employed in the fields anymore; after almost seven centuries, the countryside had been given back to free men. This state of affairs persists until the present day.

It is highly important to be aware of this whole history to understand the organisation of the countryside of the Fregellan peninsula; there are no villages per se. The free Fregellans had lived in villages, but these villages had become deserted by 600 Weyr, often even ploughed under to provide more arable land. The agricultural slaves did live in compounds, not in villages. When the landholder started to lease out their lands, they had to provide for farmsteads for their new tenants – they built entirely new “villages”. The striking peculiarity of these villages is that they did never grow organically but were erected all at once, in a few months, and following a common blueprint. Villages in the Seat of the Xanarian Empire do therefore look much like estates of terraced houses, and their layouts resemble each other very closely. A few centuries of modifications and rebuilding by the tenants have of course customized these villages and their buildings, but still both the houses and the entire villages resemble each other very closely. It is important to keep this in mind – villages in the Seat of the Xanarian Empire are devised things, not grown ones.

So what is the state of slavery in the Seat of the Empire in 1467 Weyr? As explained, there are no slaves employed in the fields; instead they are found mostly in the cities. Here, they work as servants in the great households, and as skilled labourers in factory-like workshops. Apart from that, there are state-owned slaves, mostly by the Imperator and the Senate. The Imperator’s slaves work in the mostly as scribes and clerks in the bureaucracy, as the matters with whom they are concerned are often deemed too delicate to be entrusted to free men; much better to employ men who can more easily be silenced. The Senate’s slaves are much worse off. Some few are also employed in the senatorial bureaucracy, but their majority toils under backbreaking conditions in the mines. But by and large, slavery doesn’t play a large economical role anymore; even in the cities, the centres of slavery, their do not make up much less than a fifth of the populace.
Nowadays, there are four possible sources of slaves. The first is being born into slavery, as a slave’s child, even one with a free man or woman, is always also a slave. The second is trade. Xanarian traders buy slaves in foreign lands, and foreign slave traders do also come to the Seat of the Empire. The Savaxen do a brisk business in raiding the coasts of Farrenshire and the Sea of Raiders for slaves and selling them to the Xanarians. A next to negligible source are prisoners of war. In theory, these would still be made slaves, but the Empire doesn’t fight many offensive wars nowadays. The fourth and last source of slaves are the courts. Condemnation to slavery is a very common sentence in the Empire, and even rather small pecuniary fines are commuted to slavery if they are not settled soon. In the present day, the courts are the single most important source of new slaves.

But even though it is far from being comfortable, a slave’s lot is still a far call from being all terror and cruelty, if one dicounts the slaves at the mines. Masters are usually quite lenient. Slaves do usually receive the odd tip for their services and are allowed to keep this money and spend it in any way they choose; some do even own slaves of their own. In theory, all their property is the property of their master, but masters do almost never enforce this. The law does also protect the slaves from extreme cruelty. While the master is free to administer any bodily punishment, all kind of mutilation is forbidden, as is the killing of ones slaves; violations against these regulations are handled no differently as if the deeds would have been perpetrated against a free man, even if the offender is the slave’s master himself. The law does even protect the families of slaves – mothers and fathers may not be sold or bought separately from their offspring, and siblings are similiarly protected from separation. In addition, it is stil the social norm to liberate ones slaves after a certain time, usually very roughly 20 years.
So, if one discounts the psychological strain of being legally rather an owned thing than an actual human being, most slaves are actually better off than the average tenant, forever bound to his land and his ocupation and weighed down by crushing taxes.

Author:  Grettir [ Sun Feb 10, 2008 12:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The society of the Empire

Education in the Empire

Among the deeds of mercy practised by the Imperial Church as representative of the Merciful Hand there is one that few peasants in western Weyrth would find merciful at all: Its priests provide a basic education to everybody, free of any charge.

In the towns, there are priests, so called Tutores (singular tutor, meaning just that), whose main responsibility is holding classes for youngsters, often at set times and in rooms set aside especially for this use, but in the rural regions this basic education is provided by the parish priests, wherever they find available space and whenever they feel like it. The education provided is very basic. Pupils are given very basic knowledge of the glorious history of the Empire, the most important laws are impressed on them and simple theological matters of Xanarism are explained to them in rough terms, but the mainstay of the education is more practical: Pupils learn to read and to write, and the basics of multiplication up to around the number 100. Sparse as this may seem, when compared with the population elsewhere it turns even the least humilior into a the equivalent of a very learned man indeed.
Children are not required to attend these classes, but almost all do without a fault. Education and knowledge are valued highly in the Seat of the Xanarian Empire, and even the most backward farmer has a healthy respect for them and their practical uses and is eager for his children to acquire both.
Classes are open to both sexes and are attended equally by both, but there is no official regulation about their age and timetables. Pupils are usually between six and ten years of age (though they do not attend classes throughout this span) and spend a few hours per week with their teachers, until their parents are content with what they have learned and the subject matters taught become repetitive.

While this is how humiliores are schooled, honestiores receive almost always additional or even different education. While most honestiores’ children attend the priests’ lessons, the richest ones receive their basic schooling from private teachers. But no matter how they came about their basic education, further education is attained in the same way, by attendance of private schools located in almost all towns. These private schools are invariably run by a single individual who holds classes in his own private dwelling and teaches all subjects himself. Most are run by educated but not brilliant men who make a linving from imparting their knowledge at a fee to the young, but a very few private schools are run by famous scholars. They usually charge quite extravagant fees for their tuition and take only on a limited number of pupils, as teaching is for them usually only a source of additional revenue and not their main occupation; for them, teaching is a profitable occupation on the side while they pursue other ventures.
Pupils at these private schools are usually between the ages of nine and fifteen (mostly ten to fourteen), exclusively honestiores and at least to three quarters male; not many parents think that a higher education is necessary for women. Subject matters taught are mathematics and geometry, history, theology, literature, philosophy, geography and law. These topics are usually taught in a very hodge-podge manner, not seperated into the various subjects; it is typical to read the classics of Xanarian literature and than to expound on any matter that crops up within its pages. Rote memorization, especially of whole chapters of the classics, is the mainstay of this education, as is bodily punishment of dumb or lazy pupils.
These private schools do not give out any degrees, but successful attendance of one is usually obvious very soon in the mere conversation. Educated Imperilas love to sprinkle their conversation with quotations form the clasics, which they had to memorize so painstakingly; anybody failing to do so will never be held to be educated.
This kind of education is what is expected of young honestiores wanting to enter the Church or civil service; if they have any aspirations to rise through the ranks (and many do not), further education or very good connections are necessary.

This further education is provided by the academy. Once, there was an academy in each of the four major cities of the Seat of the Xanarian Empire, but the prestige of the academy of Xanarium was so great that all students wanted to go there, as having attended here offered the best prospects for a future career. Lack of students forced the other academies to close down one after the other, so nowadays there remains only the Academia Xanaria, the Xanarian Academy.
The academia is open to anybody professing to the Imperial faith and speaking and reading the Imperial tongue fluently – and paying its steep attendance fees. It is run jointly by the Church and the Senate, for both of whom the academy is a wonderful source of revenue. All manners of sciences are taught, by teachers both clerical and worldly, but the Church reserves the right to teach any and all classes on theology and philosophy. The academia has three faculties, the theological, the secular and the medical, the last on being somewhat separate from the former two, which have a lot of subjects in common.

Students at the theological faculty don’t have to become priests, but most do. Its emphasis is of course on theology and philosophy, but it does also teach a lot of law, grammar, logic and rhetorics. The secular faculty focuses on humanities, making logic, philosophy, grammar, rhetorics, arithmetic, astronomy and law its focus, but still also requires students to learn more theology. The curricula of both faculties are thus very similar, only their emphasis is different. They also both teach history, geography and poetry, but not as subjects of their own but merely on the sides, whenever the main subjects touch upon these matters.
The means of teaching are the same at both faculties, it is once again done by studying and discussing the works of great minds of the past. Both faculties don’t hold any intermediate tests at all, but as classes are at least in part very open affairs of lecturers answering students’ questions and asking them questions in turn, most students know very well where they stand academically – as do their teachers. When a student feels ready, he takes his exam, a huge test before a number of teachers who ask him any question that comes to their minds. If the student prooves sufficiently knowledgable, he passes, if not he may not try again for another year. This system and the similiarity of curricula makes it quite simple for students to switch faculties, and most do so at least once during their studies.
A switch to the medical faculty is much less easy. The medical faculty requires their students to learn only the basics of humanities and of course theology, but it teaches a lot more natural science. Among these, anatomy is of course central, but a knowledge of pharmacology and chemistry is also imparted, and together with it also a basic education in matters of zoology, botany and geology. While graduates of the other two faculties do usually either become scholars or go on to make a career withinthe Church or the Empire’s civil service, graduates of the medical faculty become either alchemists or physicians without equal in western Weyrth, often a combination of both. Due to the subjects taught, the teaching methods at his faculty are more practical and less cerebral than at the other two faculties. Graduation from the medical faculty is done in the same way as from the other two, and switching between it and the others is also allowed, but only a rare matter, as the differences in both substance and methods are so great that switching is almost paramount to starting over anew.

Students usually begin their attendance around the age of fifteen or sixteen. Foreign attendants who come to Xanarium to finish off their education with a year at the Academia Xanaria are often considerable older; few of them stay longer than a year, and almost none undergo the entire curriculum. Still, even a short stint at the Academia Xanaria is a mark of the highest distinction throughout western Weyrth.
There are no set times for the length of the studies, but nobody has ever graduated in less than four years; it is likely that the faculties prevent even the most brilliant of students willfully from finishing their studies any sooner. Normal attendence seems to be around six years, but eight years are not especially rare. Some students stay on even longer, but only those from a truly wealthy background, as studying is expensive. Students do not only have to pay the steep tuition fees, they also have to pay for room and board in Xanarium /which is far from cheap itself and not provided by the academia in any way) and to pay for anything else they might need – and neither ink, parchment, nor books are cheap.
Women are not admittedt to the academia at all. The oficial reason of its existence is to educated future functionaries of the bureaucracy and the Church, and as women are not allowed careers in those, there is also no need for them to attend the academia. Female attendance of the medical faculty gets caught up in this reasoning and is therefore also not allowed.

At any time, there are well over a thousand students in attendance at the the Academia Xanaria, most of them Imperials, but some from foreign parts. These students, young men of means and high education, are a small but distinct group within the populace of Xanarium. Among the city’s inhabitants they have a not entirely undeserved reputation as arrogant ruffians, reckless seducers, roguish con-men and ever-thirsty partyers. At night, many a Xanarian tavern resounds with the drinking songs of these young rascals, many of whom will go on to later become pillars of the Empire.

Author:  Grettir [ Sun Apr 20, 2008 7:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The society of the Empire

All the above posts have in a slightly updated form been made available as a download (thank you, Ian). This 20+ pages document on the society of the Empire does also contain the essay on naming conventions, an all-new, shorter overview of the essentials of Imperial society, and an equally new breakdown of the Social Class Priority picks for Imperial citizens, allowing for the creation of Imperial citizens as player characters.

Author:  Grettir [ Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The society of the Empire

To give a first impression of daily life in the large Xanarian cities, and as preparation to the upcoming article extensive on Xanarium, today’s installment takes a close look at

Public Entertainment in the Empire

The Imperial society is an urban society, and wherever many people are concentrated in one spot, professional entertainers do abound. The Seat of the Xanarian Empire is famous for its various and even outlandish spectacles provided for the masses. A fact that often raises eyebrows is that since the earliest days of the Empire it has been the Church which provided these sometimes garish spectacles. The reason for this is that the Church is within the structure of Imperial society the proponent of the Merciful Hand, and providing affordable entertainment for the masses is a charitable act and thus wholy within the sphere of the Merciful Hand. The Church therefore has a whole administrative department concerned only with the organisation of entertainment. These spectacles are for the major part of course limited to the four big cities of the Seat of the Xanarian Empire, but there are a few travelling shows of gladiators and actors managed by the Church which visit the smaller municipia.
There are basically four types of spectacles. In descending order of popularity these are chariot races, gladiatorial shows, theatrical plays and concerts.

Chariot Racing:
The Xanarian tradition of chariot racing does date so far back that it is impossible to say when it begun; it might easily be as old as Xanarium itself. Surviving records show that there was an earth-and-dirt racing course in Hippodrome Valley in Xanarium as early as the 1st century and that the races were initially conducted as kind of holy rites in honour of Xanar Shardfinder. The races did soon loose their religious significance, and about the same time, in the early 3rd century, the first permanent wooden seats were built to accommodate spectators. Over the course of the following century, the Hippodrome of Xanarium was enlarged to become the grand marble-faced building it is today, and the other three major cities of the Seat of the Xanarian Empire all got their own, smaller hippodromes.
The original Hippodrome of Xanarium accomodates a long racing course with sharp 180 degree turns at both its ends. A low spine of 350 m length, decorated with pillars and loot from all parts of the Empire, seperates the two lanes going to and fro without obstructing the view of the spectators, of whom the Hippodrome can easily accommodate 300 000.
A race goes for three and a half laps, and at the Hippodrome usually has twelve participating teams (at the smaller hippodromes elsewhere, this is reduced to eight). A racing day at the Hippodrome has usually twelve races, those at the smaller race courses less, and there is a single racing day every month. Chariots are almost exclusively drawn by four horses each, but there are also a few races for teams of only two horses, and some curio races, with a reduced number of starters, with teams of eight horses. The chariots are built as light as possible, almost flimsy, and charioteers are usually small and of light build themselves. Referees watch the races closely, and charioteers whipping the teams or persons of rivals are disqualified, as are those ramming their competitors.
Racing is mostly a matter of jockeying for a good position on an inside lap on the straight part of the course, and then chosing a speed that is just right for the narrowness of your turn; in the turns, charioteers crouch low to keep the chariot’s center of gravity as low as possible, but still they do flip sometimes (one flip every other race is a low average). This is potentially disastrous for the charioteers. To safeguard against the loss of the reins, it is the charioteers’ invariable custom to tie their ends around their bodies, but in the case of a crash this means that they get dragged after their teams. Charioteers do therefore carry curved knives close at hand with which to sever the reins, but even if they manage to do so, they still run the risk of being run over by other teams. About every other crash does therefore lead to serious injury, and a third of these injuries are either lethal or result in crippling for life.
The above should make it obvious that the best places for spectators are near the turns, where the most action is to be expected. At the Hippodrome at Xanarium, the boxes of the Imperator and the Xanarches are therefore to be found opposite each other near the turn (the former’s right before the beginning of the turn of the Hippodrome’s round end, the latter one’s right after the end of this same turn). Of the remaining spectator space the lowest row is reserved for dignitaries of the civil and ecclesiastical administration, the rows immediately above this one for honestiores, and the mass of the higher seats for humiliores. This reservation means that there are enough seats for the elite, but always not quite for the masses. Literally everybody turns out to see the races, and visitors even travel from countryside to attend, so if one isn’t entitled to a reserved seat but still wants to be sure of being able to watch the races, one better queues before sunrise.
Charioteers are celebrated and venerated heroes of the people; every boy dreams of becoming a charioteer, famous and jeered on by the masses. Charioteers have to belong to one of the four teams to be allowed to start, and quite a few are actually slaves belonging to their team; horses and chariots are also always owned by the teams. These temas are the Reds, the Greens, the Blues, and the Whites. Rare indeed is the Xanarian who doesn’t profess to support one or the other team – even the Xanarches and the Imperator each do openly favour a certain team. Many people follow the fortune of their team with almost religious fervour – there are supporters’ clubs and taverns devoted to one team or the other. Immediately before and after a racing day, melees between groups of radical supporters of rival teams are not uncommon; almost every racing day claims several casualties from among the fans.

Gladiatorial Games:
The roots of gladiatorial games go back about as far as those of chariot racing, and they, too, had anitially a religious meaning. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, prisoners of war were assembled into troops, equipped with blunt weapons and sent into mock battles against units of hand-picked legionaries; they were slaughtered to commemorate the victories of Xanar Shardfinder against the armies of the Dark Betrayer, and to give thanks to The-Three-Gods-Become-One for granting victory to the legions of Xanarium. In the 4th century, the first of these fights were staged to celebrate other occasions than only victorious battles, and from the 5th century onward it wasn’t anymore regular soldiers who fought, but professional gladiators, and the victims were not solely prisoners of war, but also convicted criminals. By the time Galerius Constans usurped power in the early 6th century, the gladiatorial rites had turned into regular shows, mostly disattached from the Xanarian wars and also largely secularized, apart from a formal blessing and dedication at their beginning. At around the same time, animals did for the first time appear in the games.
An apogee was reached by the times of Xanarches Bassianus, in around 700 Weyr. Bassianus, nowadays judged to have been an apallingly secular man, ordered the Bassianum built; the gladiatorial games, which up to this time had always been staged in temporal, wooden theatres, did now receive a permanent, monumental home. In the course of the 8th century, the other three big cities of the Seat of the Xanarian Empire did build copies of this structure of their own, though on a smaller scale.
Around the turn of the millennium, it became more difficult to stage games; slaves were less plentiful, and the Empire slipped into a crisis which precluded fortunes to be spent on spectacles. In the course of the 13th and 14th centuries the games did finally take on their modern guise.
It keeps bearing in mind that no gladiator does ever fight another gladiator. True to the original idea, gladiators do still allegorically represent the forces of Light, and so they do not fight each other, only ever the the forces of Darkness. The latter are represented by convicted stubborn heretics, pirates captured by the navy, and of course by wild beasts; among those, captured trollspawn are preferred above all others. It goes without saying that capturing trollspawn alive and shipping them to the Seat of the Xanarian Empire is dangerous and thus costly in the extreme. In the Bassianum, it is a rule that at least one trollspawn, though only very rarely more, is featured in every single show, but in the other, smaller amphitheatres, trollspawn are not seen more often than once a year.
Apart from the trollspawn, gladiators do fight captured wild beasts. Once, when the Church had a rich and huge Empire at its disposal, these animals were mostly exotic ones brought from the far corners of the Empire, lions, crocodiles, hyenas, leopards, even rhinos and the rare elephant. Nowadays, these exotic beasts make up a small minority of the animals killed in the arena, and it is more common to see wolves, bears, wild bulls and maddened boars.
These animals do not only get slaughtered by the gladiators, they do themselves also get to kill humans. These unlucky men and women are provided by the Inquisition; whereas repenting heretics are mercifully strangled and their corpses crucified as a warning for others, the stubborn ones are sentenced to death in the arena. Church officials are very creative in devising spectacular deaths. Convicts might be bound to poles to be devoured, or they might be given blunted weapons to defend themselves – after being hamstrung or having a leg broken. One way or another it is assured that they don’t stand a chance of survival.
The galdiators’ traditional foes were initially prisoners of war, later supplemented by convicts. When the Empire waged less and less wars, this source dried up – and as the wars had also been the major source of slaves, one was at the same time forced to turn to convicts for new slaves, they became unavailable as a source for fodder for the arena, too. But the ingenious Xanarians did soon find a solution. Captured pirates did become the new source of material for the arena. Piracy was punishable by death, but unlike many other cases of capital punishment, the one for piracy was not changed to slavery - nobody did want a bloody-minded and combat-tested former pirate as a slave. But this very combat worthiness did on the other hand make them perfect material for the arena. The Imperial navy has standing orders to take as many pirates alive as possible, and the Church buys them off the Imperator to be slaughtered by gladiators. The typical pirate is a ruffian, not a warrior, and even though he knows the basics of armed combat, he is easy prey for the highly experienced and well-equipped gladiator. The gladiators toy for some time with the invariably unarmored pirates, giving the spectators a fine show, then they dispatch them. Every once in a while a gladiator is actually defeated by a pirate, which helps to keep the fights from getting completely predictable. The pirates are promised their freedom if they win, and the very few who do are really set free; they are nailed to a cross, and once crucified, they are free to go wherever they want – if they can.
Gladiatorial shows are held three times a year, at fixed dates connected to some religious festival. At the height of the Empire, every game lasted for three consecutive days, but with the decine of the Empire, this has been reduced. In the three minor metropolises of the Seat of the Xanarian Empire, every game is only a single day long; in Xanarium, games lasts for two days, and on some special occasion, maybe oonce every other year, a game is by grace of the Xanarches extended to last for three days. A day at the games always follows a fixed formula. At first, there is a religious service; a passage pertaining to the wars of Xanar Shardfinder is read out from the holy writ, a short sermon on combating the forces of evil is given, a communal prayer is said, and then the games are blessed. The first act of the following games is always gladiators fighting wild animals – or more properly slaughtering them, as the gladiators appearing here are equipped with javelins and well-trained in combat tacics against beasts. This is followed by the second act, heretics being thrown to the beasts. This is the least popular part of the games, not because spectators take pity on the poor sinners, but rather because many view this spectacle as unsophisticated carnage, as bloodletting without any sport to it. Then follow the hugely popular fights of the gladiators against the pirates; these combats are mostly one on one, only rarely two on two; even larger team fights are only ever staged at the Bassianum, and even there only as a special treat to be seen only every few games. In the Bassianum, and only there, this is then followed by the single combats for admittance to the Tulian Guard (as explained in full detail elsewhere); as these combats do pitch one trained warrior against another, they are even more popular than the bouts of the gladiators, even though if usually much shorter than the artfully drawn-out gladiatorial fights. The day does then close with the easily most popular and spectacular part of the games – the single combat of a gladiator with a trollspawn. Other than with the spectators, this is the most unpopular match for the gladiators themselves, as it is the most dangerous by far. But even though gladiators do with some frequency fall against trollspawn, the latter are still never the victors – if necessary, gladiator after gladiator is sent against them, until they are killed.
These gladiators are always slaves chosen. Their masters, private contractors who lease their gladiators to the Church, choose them for physicl fitness and train them to extremely high standards of proficiency. Gladiators are habitually freed after some five to ten active years, depending on their conduct and achievements. The great majority does survive this long, as their only dangerous opponent apart from trollspawn is the rare proficient pirate – who needs lots of luck in addition to proficiency to defeat the well-trained gladiator.
The equipment of gladiators is highly traditional and exactly the same since over a millennium. It is in a somewhat baroque way deliberately primitive; the reason for this is that gladiators are theroretically thought to represent the warriors of antiquitiy, who fought along Xanar Shardbringer against the Dark Betrayer and his forces inimical to order and civilization. Like charioteers, they are hero-worshipped by a games-mad populace. Even though they are slaves, they are accorded much freedom; their faces are so well-known that flight would be next to imposible anyway. Gladiators do thus get a lot of invitations to the houses of leading honestiores, just like charioteers – but unlike the rather weeny charioteers, they do quite often also end up in the beds of any female hosts.
It merits bearing in mind that the overall number of gladiators is very low. Fifty, maybe sixty, is usually the maximum number of gladiators appearing on any given day even at the Bassianum, meaning that, even though no gladiator usually appears in the course of a two-day game more often than once, 150 galdiators in total are enough to play the Bassianum indefinitely.

A small excursion:
This is the proper place for a small excursion on betting in the Seat of the Xanarian Empire. This can easily be summed up: The Xanarians are mad about betting, absolutely and without any holds barred. Both Basianum and Hippodrome swarm with bookies, calling out across the heads of spectators and handing out betting slips. Xanarians bet not only on who will win, they also bet in which lap a certain chariot will take the lead, how many strikes a fighter will parry before receiving the first wound, how many charioteers are going t crash over the course of a day, where the first wound received by any given fighter will be located, and a thousand things more.
Of all the many spectators attending the races and the games, a full half wouldn’t even bother to turn out if not given the opportunity to bet on the outcomes.

Theatrical Plays:
Just like chariot racing and gladiatorial shows, the roots of theatre go back to religious rites, to mystery plays staged to enact key passages from the holy writ. As early as the 2nd century, priests of the Imperial Faith wrote new stories for these mystery plays, to instruct and enlighten the faithful. These new plays couldn’t of course add new events to the life of Xanar Shardfinder, and so they concentrated on the life of his minor disciples. From here, it was only a small step to stage plays detailing the lifes of later saints, and then even completely fictional moral lessons. Once these fictional plays of religious content had become common and fully accepted, in around 300 Weyr, the first plays of not purely religious content were written and staged.
The later 4th and the 5th century were the classic period of playwriting, when unsurpassed masterpieces were written, especially the tragedies by the “Three Masters” Acilius, Sopholis and Uripidius, venerated and frequently staged even in the present age.
The end of the 5th century saw a sharp decline in the quality of the plays produced, a direct result of the the theatre catering to the simpler tastes of the poor masses flooding the cities. Plays became more frivolous, relying on the cheap thrills of dramatic action and bloodshed and acquiring traits of the burlesque. Hackneyed versions of the great plays of former days were staged, revue-like medleys of their most gripping scenes. In around 600 Weyr, the stately masks worn by actors of earlier times were abandoned and female actors were for the first time admitted to the stage – which soon led to the shows becoming ever more frivolous, with ever more displays of naked flesh.
This sorry state of the heatrical arts characterized the Golden Age of the Empire (the 8th and 9th centuries) and continued, yes even aggravated, right through the era of its decline. It is the current, the 15th, cenutry which has finally seen and inversion of this trend. The frivolous revues of sex and thrills are still staged, but a good portion of people, even among the humiliores, nowadays openly sneer at them. People have started to think back to the early days of the Empire, when it had the vigour of youth, and with it to the clarity and severe beauty of the plays of the clasical period. For the first time in ages, the plays of the “Three Masters” are again staged in their original form, and one can once again actors who are more than grotesque clowns.
Xanarian theatres are semi-circular buildings open to the elements. The spectators sit in steeply ascending ranks in the rounded part and watch the play unfolding on a raised stage opposite them. The actors are men and women alike, and the plays make heavy use of trapdoors, pulleys and other mechanisms, true to the Xanarian technical aptitude. The more frivolous shows frequently contain acrobatic displays and sung pieces and are often accompanied by music, but real plays never are. Xanarium sports three of these structures, the other three large cities one or two each, and even a good number of smaller municipia have at least a small one. Admission to the shows is free, as they, too, are paid for by the Church. Any given theatre is typically played every other day.
Actors organize themselves into troupes. The most prestigious of these troupes play Xanarium, with occasional appearances in one of the other three large cities, and the least prestigious ones travel between the theatres of the remote municipia. Actors are usually pretty or handsome, and they have a not entirely undeserved reputation of having loose morals; many, of both sexes, are discreetly available as costly prostitutes.
Actors are generally accorded a very low prestige, but some few are perversely venerated no less than famous charioteers. This has only very rarely anything to do with the quality of their performance. The mechanisms leading to huge popularity are hard to fathom, but good looks seem to help, as does an especially scandalous lifestyle.

Of all the public entertainments, concerts are easily the least popular, and the most elitarian. Almost only ever honestiores do attend them, and it has become customary to the point of being compulsory to make a donation when attending, even though admission to concerts is also free as they are entirely paid for by the Church.
The first dedicated concert hall ever to be built was the Odeum at Xanarium, basically only a somewhat smaller and roofed-over theatre. The other three large cities of the Seat of the Xanarian Empire did soon follow suit, but everywhere else, concerts are performed in the theatres – if at all. Municipal theatres usually stage no more than two concerts a month, whereas the dedicated concert halls in the large cities are usually played every other day.
Musicians are never venerated in the way charioteers, gladiators and some actors are. This may have much to do with the snobbish demeanor shown ostentatively by the honestiores attending the concerts. The same people who cheer at a charioteer at the top of their voice and who swoon at being at the same party as a famous gladiator do at the concerts fancy themselves sophisticated connaisseurs of the arts, not base fan-boys of some vulgar performer.

Author:  Grettir [ Tue Jan 19, 2010 5:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The society of the Empire

Organized Crime in the Empire

Organized crime in the Seat of the Xanarian Empire, as it exists in 1467 Weyr, goes back to the crisis of the 13th century, with predecessors during the time of the Soldier Emperors (1034 to 1097 Weyr). During these times of failing government authority, people organized themselves for their own protection. Private guard corps and neighbourhood watches abounded and kept up the local order while the government was engaged elsewhere; these organisations soon came to be referred to collectively as Fraternes (singular fraternis)

What started out as additional support for failing local government executive power and stand-in for its equally failing jurisdictional power came within a few years to actually dis- and replace it. Within still a few more years, these private guard forces and neighbourhood watches developed into little political entities of their own, tiny, fiercely territorial quasi-nations divorced from the Empire at large. At times, when one of these organisations became overbold, the imperial government directed its attention to it and clamped down hard on it, but as soon as the imperial back was turned once more, the organisations tended to constitute itself anew. It was only during the reign of Diocletius Aper that central authority was reestablished and the fraternes dissolved, or at least driven into hiding and marginalized.

The process of formation of authorities parallel to the government repeated itself only a century later, during the time of the Empire’s great plight and eventual breaking apart. What few fraternes had clandestinely survived the 12th century resurfaced during the crisis of the 13th, and new neighbourhood watches and private guard forces were formed during this century. History repeated itself, and again the fraternes established themselves as the real local authorities – but this time, the crisis of the central authority lasted longer and ran deeper. When the rump of the former Xanarian Empire stabilized itself sometime during the 14th century and finally found the strength to ascertain government authority, it was already too late. The fraternes were too firmly entrenched in urban society and too powerful to break them up entirely. All that the imperial government could do was to drive them into hiding, and that’s how the fraternes still exist today – as hidden and indeed forbidden organisations, detached from the reason of their original formation, but by means of terror and violence holding veiled sway over entire city quarters.

The fraternes, as they exist in 1467 Weyr, are a particularly nasty form of organized crime – nasty because they have been so well-entrenched in Xanarian society for several centuries that the Xanarian people can’t even imagine existence free of them. To the modern Xanarians, the fraternes have always been and will always be, and there’s nothing that anybody can do about it.

The main branch of the fraternes’ business is racketeering. This is a remnant of the original purpose of the fraternes, which were subsidized by the people to protect them and to keep up the law. Nowadays, when this kind of protection would not be necessary anymore, everybody but well-connected honestiores pays for the fraternes’ protection – protection from being muscled, maimed and murdered by the members of the fraternes, that is.

But this protection has still some valid points to itself. While thefts, robberies and burglaries are not normally committed by the fraternis itself, it does keep close tabs on these activities within their territory. Committing any such crime without the assent of the local fraternis and without giving it a generous cut is to court death. In matters of crime, it is the local fraternis who says what goes and what doesn’t go, and it usually keeps a watchful eye on crime not getting out of hand, and especially upon the very poorest not being preyed upon. Too high a crime rate would after all be detrimental to local prosperity and thus damage the fraternis’ racketeering profits. Fraternes are organisations with long histories and rich traditions, and they think in longer terms than the common crimial – upon whom they tend to look down.

Apart from racketeering and taking a cut from local criminals – which is nothing but racketeering in itself – some fraternes do to various extent engage in prostitution, smuggling and bookmaking themselves, without intermediaries. Of these activities, prostitution – invariably using slaves – is most common, and smugling least common. Bookmaking, incredibly lucrative with the betting-mad Xanarians, is always tightly controlled by the fraternes in one way or another, but not always actually in the hands of their members; often, they just take a generous cut from the freelancer bookies’ earnings.

Even though fraternes frequently commit acts of appallingly cruel violence they still tend to regard themselves as men of discipline and constraint, and indeed honour, which they regard as setting them apart from the comon criminal. To some extent, this is indeed true. In keeping with their ancient origins as law-keeping organisations, fraternes are highly organized, have a clear and very hierachical organisational structure and a rigid code of conduct. Each fraternis has a clearly delineated territory upon which no other fraternis is to encroach, and disputes are settled not by gang warfare but rather by compromises negotiated at meetings of the heads of all local fraternes – at least in theory. In reality, this reasonable and level-headed system fails all too often, and every fraternis usually does what it feels like being able to get away with, regardless of agreemens and compromises. Whenever a fraternis feels strong enough to ride roughshod over another fraternis, or when no compromise can be achieved, violence spills into the streets of the towns and cities of the Seat of the Xanarian Empire. The gutters run red with the blood of both innocents and criminals when fraternes clash, and bands of armed and sometimes even armoured gang members fight it out openly in the squares and alleys. The least common outcome of these brutal urban wars is that one fraternis is entirely wiped out, and the most common that the loosing one sues for peace and cedes some of its territory to the enemy. A third and also quite common outcome is that the body count among honest, uninvolved citizens begins to run so high that the authorities can no longer ignore the gang war; if this happens, the other local fraternes usually pressure the adversaries to come to terms, as meddling by the authorites is bad for everybody’s business.

An especially worrying fact about fraternes, and part of the secret behind their power and continued success, is that they attract many former gladiators and quite a few discharged legionaries. Especially the former do often find themselves sufficiently estranged from Imperial society not to care for it, and both groups canhave a hard time adapting to civilian life and tend not to shrink back from violence and to feel attracted by the rough brotherhood, discipline and hierarchy offered by the fraternes – who usually welcome such promising recruits with open arms. Former gladiators and soldiers provide the fraternes with an ample supply of such useful ressources as raw fighting power, tactical acumen, leadership and training for the other ruffians, esprit de corps, ample backbone in the face of adversity and physical danger, and a great disposition towards violence and bloodshed. Many a fraternis is led by a veteran of the legions or the arena.

A glossary of terms:

Avinaris: plural avinares, literally “bird-man” (bastardized Fregellan). A fraternius engaged in the prostitution business.

Capo: plural capones, literally “head” (bastardized Fregellan). The leader of a fraternis.

Fortex: plural fortices, literally “strongman” (bastardized Fregellan). A fraternius engaged in the racketeering business. The most numerous of fraternii and at the same time most prestigious among them.

Fraternis: plural fraternes, literally “brotherhood” (bastardized Fregellan). A self-contained criminal gang holding sole sway over all ciminal activity within a clearly delineated urban area and headed by a capo.

Fraternius: plural fraternii, literally “fraternis-man”. Member of a fraternis, regardless of his rank.

Pingis: plural pinges, literally “greaser” (bastardized Fregellan). A fraternius engaged in smuggling, so-called from the need to grease the palms of custom and other officials.

Tabellarius: plural tabellarii, literally “chart-keeper”. A bookmaker, either a freelancer giving a share to a fortex of the local fraternis or, more rarely, a fraternius himself.

Vicinarius: plural vicinarii, literally “neighbourhood-man”. A mid-ranking fraternius either in charge of a certain neighbourhood within the fraternis’ territory or else of a certain branch of the fraternis’ activities, like prostitution or gambling.

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