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Overview of internal politics of Ardean Empire - suggestions?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Aldarion, Jul 8, 2019.

  1. Aldarion

    Aldarion Scribe

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    This is just a preliminary work, so I'd like any advice on what I had missed, what needs expanding/changing etc.
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    The Empire has extremely complex internal politics. Main factors in those are the emperor and his court, large landowners, the army and the small landowners, the people of the capital, and the Church.

    The people living in the capital city are able to put pressure on the Emperor and imperial court. When emperor Trebius wanted to shift his capital away from Ardea, people of the capital rose to demonstrate, and the plan was abandoned.

    Army itself depends on peasants and small landowners for its existence in its current form. As such, it also serves as a pathway through which said classess can articulate and present their demands.

    Main problem is the provincial aristocracy. They are indispensable as a source of educated officers on frontiers, but likewise present a danger to military system of the Empire by their depredations aimed at military lands. While they are forbidden from buying military lands, that does not necessarily prevent them from trying to do so – or from rebelling when prevented in it by central government. Natural disasters can easily result in mass sell-outs of land to the aristocracy.

    Provincial aristocracy itself had came out of the military system, and consists of military commanders. Due to education, they tend to be able to acquire high commands, which are profitable due to plunder. They also acquire a retinue of veterans of their commands, which can prove extremely valuable on the battlefield. However, as their loyalty is primarily to the magnate in question, they often rebel.

    Because of this, central government is forced to regularly buy or even forcibly acquire lands from the magnates and give them back to thematic troops. While magnates are quite happy to fight enemies of the Empire, they are also happy to turn their forces against each other or the central government, which presents significant problem. Under legislation, only imperial chrysobulls are a valid proof of ownership.

    A system has emerged from this situation where soldiers are not given land, but rather assigned land which remains in ownership of the state. As such, they have no right to sell or rent the land they use, but are tied to the land and the military service which itself is also tied to the land. An aristocrat attempting to buy such land would be going directly against the emperor and, technically, committing treason. Land grant is only for life and cannot be inherited. Users of land still have to pay taxes, albeit those are lower than what person actually owning the same amount of land would have paid.

    Even so, magnates remain powerful. While access to offices of the state is the easiest way of becoming powerful, economic power is another way. And these magnates have both economic power, and interest in self-promotion. Further, some of them are able to resist taxation, with the result that imperial estates have gained importance as a source of revenue. If a magnate rebels, he is regularly stripped of a portion of his lands, which are transferred to the state ownership.
     
  2. Corwynn

    Corwynn Troubadour

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    Some things I can think of:

    You mentioned the Church. Where do they fit into all of this? Is there a clear distinction between Church and State? If there is, do they frequently cooperate, or are they often at odds? Is the Church itself prone to factionalism like the military? Does the Church hold influence beyond the Empire's borders, and if so, how does that effect the Empire's foreign relations?

    Is there anything resembling a middle class that earns their wealth by trade or manufacturing instead of land ownership or military service? If so, how large a group are they, how are they viewed by society, and how much political power do they have?

    What happens if the empire runs out of people and places to conquer? The Roman Empire (which Ardea sounds a lot like) ended up being blocked by the Sahara Desert to the South and the Atlantic Ocean to the West, to the North after a certain point there were only poor tribes with little worth taking, and to the East they were fought to a standstill by the Persian Empire. Can Ardea survive without a steady supply of booty and fresh territory? Are there any rival powers that could challenge Ardea? Is the Empire still expanding, at its height, or going into decline?
     
  3. Aldarion

    Aldarion Scribe

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    CorwynnCorwynn Church is separate from the state, but it is also a major landowner, political player and moral influence. Also, Emperor is nominal head of the Church, though his influence is limited, and he often butts heads with the Church because latter sees many political choices and actions as being immoral. Yes, it is prone to factionalism (I am still working on a post about religion, though, but it is basically a combination of Orthodox Christianity and Mithraism). It does hold influence beyond Empire's borders, and in fact proselytization is major activity for the Empire, as it holds political and not just religious importance. On the flip side, this means that quite few wars are essentially religious squabbles (most powerful neighbour is based on the Ottoman Empire, so...).

    I have not yet determined exact structure of the middle class. There would be trade, especially within the Empire, but most of it would go by waterways (seas, rivers). So there are trade and traders, for sure, but main measure of wealth would still be land ownership. EDIT: And much of manufacture would be under state control (that I think is how it was in Byzantine Empire).

    Ardean Empire is actually based on Roman Empire of Middle Byzantine Period (9th - 11th centuries), albeit technological level is that of 15th century Western/Central Europe. In other words, it is not an expansionist power, and it has been a while since they conquered anyone. If they do defeat another state, their preferred way of dealing with that is to force said state to become a vassal / dependancy, as opposed to outright annexing it. There is a state / group of people that is nominally part of the Empire, but even there the actual state of things on the ground is more akin to personal union: "you are free to live your life however you like, just don't forget to provide those troops when we ask, OK?"

    And yes, there are rivals. As I mentioned, its most powerful neighbour is based on Ottoman Empire. They are, in fact, lot more powerful than Ardea when it comes to nominal military power, but are geographically disadvantaged, so things balance each other out.

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019

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