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Rosarian Empire

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Gurkhal, May 31, 2020.

  1. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Inspired by the Vetronia thread, I decided to post an outline for an initial imagination for how a setting based on the Late Western Roman Empire could look. The most important answer I've tried to find is how it has managed to move along and not fallen into a heap of rubble after a few centuries.

    And please note, this is not intended to be a happy setting but one which can create interesting stories and at the same time feel like it could work.

    The Rosarian Empire

    Emperors and the Army

    The emperor is at the center of the empire and his primary task is to be a soldier and protect said empire. The gold, silver and bronze ages where men of letters and learning could hope to rule the empire are gone, even while being educated gives social capital it isn't enough as resources are often sparse, loyalties strained and since long ago the army has learnt the trick of elevating new emperors.

    At the bottom of the army are the local forces to protect small towns, villages and keep the peace. Above them comes the prefecturial armies with a regional basis to stop minor threats and slow down larger threats. Finally comes the Imperial Army which is always lead by the emperor or his heir and is probably the single largest expenditure the empire has. For while the local forces have what gear their communities can outfit them with, the regional forces have what is given by the central government, the Imperial Army get the first pick on everything and is highly prioritized in the budget.

    Elites of the empire

    The socio-economic elites of the empire are divided into two groups; the imperial in the capital an the local in the provinces.

    The imperial elite in the capital tend to be super-wealthy with estates and business interests across the empire while also holding monopoly on the top positions in military, adminnistration and priesthoods thanks to their presence in the imperial court where they can network and become known to the emperor for appointments from him. The addition of imperial patronage for social status and a part of the imperial incomes also keeps sweet, and keeps either them or homes and families within reach of imperial retribution should they misconduct themselves, in the emperor's eyes, in their office.

    The local elites live out in the provinces with local attachment, responsibility and authority. As long as they don't act counter to the wishes and interests of the emperor and send in the taxes as asked for, they can generally be allowed to rule their localities as they please according to their own interests, traditions and customs but with the understanding that it not one of them who control the regional army.

    Social structure

    To survive an earlier great crisis guild membership became enforced and a dynastic principle was applied to professions. This has continued and as families and guilds have merged together, they have formed a set of clans through which a strict social frame is created for their lives. A man in a potter clan will work in a workshop belonging to the clan, have what status the clan has, he will marry within the clan, to another potter clan or a clan doing regular business with the potter clan. While there's not a 1-1 relation between every clan and a profession, many are tied to certain crafts or kinds of labour and the authorities only tolerate official business from workshops owned and operated by clans allowed for that profession.


    The empire has transitied from polytheists to monotheist but done so in a syncretic as opposed to a puritan way. The official religion, Zaurism, is accepted in a multitude of forms, many of them syncretic with old polytheist ideals, and the officla priesthood is mostly concerned with beliefs that either counters the empire or the relative tolerance in matters of faith. And if none of the two first is present, then its good 'ol fashioned clerical corruption and enriching themselves or furthering their career for the mentioned reasons.

    The common religion is a glue which binds different people together when civilian imperial patronage has become slimed down.
  2. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror


    I decided to change the religion back to polytheism and will attempt to make something I'v'e seen very little of in fantasy novels, have the religion created be a part of the world the story is about. And with that I don't mean it as world building decoration or just gods as characters, but religion as a set of beliefs and practices that combined to inform a person about the greater questions about herself and outwards into the surrounding cosmos. And that without it being nonexistent or becoming overbearing.

    Right now I imagine it to be several intersectional groupings of religions that together forms an individual person's religious outlook on the world.

    State religion - the cults of the state and the great gods that governs the state as a whole
    Georeligion - the gods of the land where one lives
    Ethnoreligion - the gods associated with a culture, ethnicity, tribe, city and so on
    Family religion - the gods, spirits and ancestors associated with your family
    Personal religion - the gods and spirits that a person on her own may feel a connection or interest with

    Every person would be in every part of these groups, to a lesser or great extent, and many gods can be found in several groups. Together they form the pantheon specific to a certain person for what powers they feel are important in their lives.
  3. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    On the matter of clans

    The clans are socio-economic building blocks of the empire and come in their thousands across an empire spanning vast distances. Below are some exampels of cland found in the empire.

    Golden Halo - Heavily invested in solar cults
    Marble Wall - Ancient patrons, benefactors and almost hereditary governors of the city of Atredium
    Red Silk - Military clan connected with the provincial armies of Orelia and Hykintium

    Bronze Horseman - Patron of the arts
    Sky Blue - Civilian administrators
    Trickle of Wine - Owns vast estates and known for the ammount of grapes they produce
    Gold Jar - Tainted by treason they are at present in bad standing with the emperor

    Storm at Sea - Sailors
    Blue Chest - City Watch
    Ironbreak - Bakers
    Golden Field - Farmers
    Fountain of Purple - Craftsmen
    Cask of Incense - Incense makers
    Dancing Feet - Musicians and singers
  4. Aldarion

    Aldarion Inkling

    Nice that I gave someone inspiration. Anyway, some of my thoughts:

    This actually looks more similar to Byzantine thematic system than to Late Roman system. If you want something based on Late Roman army, take a look at this:
    Did Diocletian overhaul the Roman army?

    But basically:
    - Army division between comitatenses (field armies - one per each large region) and limitanei (border forces). Prefectural armies could be comitatenses, plus you would have imperial army (palatini) - which would actually be a form of comitatus. But it was not - unlike what you imply - defense-in-depth akin to Byzantine themes. The "stop minor threats and slow down larger threats" part was actually duty of limitanei. Comitatenses (regional armies) were there to crush major threats.
    - Late Roman army was not equipped by communities. Neither did soldiers buy the equipment themselves. Equipment was in fact provided by workshops, which under Diocletian were state-owned and managed (until then, many suppliers were private). So, if anything, Late Roman army would have had far more standardized equipment than even army of the Principate.
    - breakdown in central government led to appearance of bucelarii - private forces (PMCs) outfitted by wealthy landowners. These were often better equipped and trained than Imperial forces - and this is likely one of sources of later feudalism. But, again, no "local" forces under state authority. At best you got town militias, and that was that.

    That situation would be true in Principate. During Dominate, state itself started appointing local governors, and was overall far more intrusive and bureocratized than earlier.

    Rest of it I have no problem with.
    Gurkhal likes this.
  5. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror


    But one very important thing is that while I base it on the Late Roman Empire as the kind of basis, I am not trying to do a copy-and-past work with it. Many aspects comes from Classical Rome, the Byzantine Empire or the Hellenistic Age. So please be aware that I am diverging from Late Roman Empire in many ways by purpose.

    Thanks, I'll have a look at it. :)

    I agree and I'll try to explain my reasoning.

    My idea with this division of military forces was not to be exactly like the Late Roman Empire but instead have a system that explains a bit on how its run and that diverges somewhat from the real history of the Late Roman Army.

    The purpose of the local forces is partially to provide immeditete response to brigands and raiders so that these can't just walz into town and do whatever they like. The fact that they are equipped locally means that they are tied to the local elites and thus can be used by these elites to suppress dissension among their communities and keep themselves in power but not so powerful as to be able to strike out and compete with military forces under the central authority in a military conflict between them. So I suppose these forces are a mix between militia, citizen armies and bucelarii. A vast range of quality and equipment but generally not overly competent and not very well equipped. But good enough for controlling populations and dealing with outlaws and minor raids.

    The regional armies are indeed intended to work as a kind of mix between comitatenses and the Byzantine thematic armies. But the reason as to why they are not supposed to be able to crush, but rather see off or slow down, major threats is because of the Crisis of the Third Century risk. The emperor does not want potentially victorious generals in the borders to have too powerful forces under their command with which to raise rebellions against the emperor. From the emperor's perspective its far better that these regional armies are less effective and some additional villages or towns gets raided than risking to have to face forces equally powerful as his own army if rebellion breaks out. Thus the system sacrifice civilian people and takes extra losses in the regional armies by keeping these regional armies weaker than they probably should be, so that the emperor and his army will have a significent advantage over the regional armies if rebellions would break out. Now the emperor don't want his provinces overrun either so these regional armies are no joke, but there's a policy to keep them from too high standards. And that between the local forces to garrison towns and cities and regional armies to fight more as described in the "Strategikon" than a Late Republic heavy infantry slugger match, then most enemies can be forced to retreat, slowed down until the imperial army arrives or just limited their ability to spread out and thus eat up their supplies much faster by shadowing, ambushes and so on from the Imperial forces.

    Finally the imperial army. This is, as I see it, the ultimate tool and foundation for the emperor's power. Now the imperial army isn't enough to rule successfully in itself, its just that without it, its almost impossible to rule successfully. The purpose of the imperial army is to secur the emperor's rule and deal with Attila the Hun, Hannibal, Sassanid etc. kind of major threats. As such they are as much based more on the Byzantine tagmata and the royal Seleukid army as well as the Late Roman Scholae. But the main point is that by having the best and most powerful military force in the empire ready to sweep in the emperor has the odds in his favour in regards to beating back external and internal enemies. If other generals know that their armies are as good as the emperor's they are more likely to be tempted to rebel but if they know that the odds are really stacked against them, they may hesistate to try to tackle the imperial army and so abstain from rebellion.

    And then we haven't spoken about the feoderi, auxiliaries and client armies that the emperor can summon to war.

    I agree. The idea here is that the empire has managed to turn back the tide a little and retain the loyalty and power of local elites so as to keep them sweet towards the emperor and concept of empire. Hence to explain as to why this empire is probably working better than the RL Late Roman Empire, I went with the Principate model.
  6. Aldarion

    Aldarion Inkling

    If you want to mix-and-match things, you might want to look at Frankish system of military organization. It was actually far more similar to Byzantine thematic system than it was to later feudalism, but also unique enough that it was not just a copy-pasta of thematic system. You can also combine that with Anglo-Saxon fyrd system.

    You might want to read these for inspiration:
    Siege Warfare and Military Organization in the Successor States (400-800 AD)
    Early Carolingian Warfare
    Merovingian Military Organization, 481-751
    Merovingian Military Organization, 481-751
    Warfare and Society in the Carolingian Ostmark » De Re Militari
    Early Carolingian Warfare

    In fact, last link - describing early Carolingian military system - might be closest to what you intend. My point is, while I am flattered that I gave you inspiration, you should see what interested you there, see what it was inspired by from history, and then go and study that - and then choose what interests you (so if you prefer Late Roman Empire to Middle Byzantine Empire, go and study Late Roman military organization). That is what I did - I was myself inspired by JRR Tolkien and GRR Martin to start building my world, but instead I went to Roman and Byzantine history, and also Hungarian-Ottoman wars, as these are areas in history I am most interested in. Then I chose what I was most interested in each, and tried to make it fit together.
  7. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    I did study Classics in university and while I have played with the idea of a Hellenistic or early medieval basis for this, I have however decided on a Late Roman basis. This is what I want to do and shall do. Regardless if I take inspiration also from other periods and places of the ancient world. If I wanted to stay entirely true to history I would have started writing historical fiction as opposed to fantasy.

    I can't see your face or hear your voice, AldarionAldarion , but I still have the impression that you are frustrated or irritated over my answers. If this is the case I'll let you know that I am sorry you feel that way and I hope I'll give you reason to reconsider your opinion about me and this work.
  8. Aldarion

    Aldarion Inkling

    In that case, I would recommend you read these:
    Brian Campbell - War and Society in Imperial Rome
    Paul Erdkamp - A Companion to the Roman Army

    I'm not frustrated, or, at least, not any more than usual. This is just how I normally am.
    Gurkhal likes this.
  9. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror


    Instead of just adding religion as a obligatory decoration to the setting I've been thinking a little about what uses it provides the society in which it exists. And the parts that could come in to influence characters in stories are:

    Explination and justification - Explains why the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, why there's a mountain here and why horses have four legs and so on. But also by giving a model the religion justifies the way that the world is ordered among humans. For example if there's a king of the gods then it sets a predecent for an emperor of the humans.

    Outlet from social control - Given the very controlling and restrictive social and political systems of the empire religious festivals can often be norm breaking or skirting on the edges of what can be accepted or is scandalous and so provides outlets for people to do things that would normally be unacceptabel or lead to harsh social sanctions.

    Group membership - Provides membership in certain groups like city, tribe, culture or family through their shared expressions of piety worship to shared sets of deities. Thus the aspect of communal religion can be a powerful way to signify your belonging to a group and being invited to take part can be seen as a final step of acceptance between communities; such as when moving to a new city, marrying into a new clan or joining a part of the army. Thus communal belonging through shared communal activity.

    Individualization - But religion can also allow for individualization in a secular culture which stress obedience and conformity. You can for example adapt, to a certain degree, worship of certain deities and most importantly the mystery cults which are apart from your communal worship and so express your individuality with likeminded people from across class and clan borders and even adopt a life style which is different, or even slightly at odds, with what your class and clan demands from you.

    Comfort in hardship - When things are going to hell or rough times are on you, there can be great comfort in finding things to hold on to. Like a patron god when the armies of the emperor are not there to protect you or give you hope that things can be turned around or at least survived.

    A sense of participation or influence - Most people lack is control over many aspects of life. People in general can't do much if the rain falls or not and don't have the contacts of wealth to work bureaucrats to see things your way. But through common religious experiences and private ones they can feel less powerless and feel like they can do something to influence what happens.
  10. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    More on religion in the Rosarian Empire. I am debating if I should run a polytheism setting or some form of monotheism setting or one where the two are kind of in balance with each other. You may notice that most of the names of kind of Greek-ish and that's because my great interest lies with the Greeks primarily and so the setting will probably be more of Greco-Roman mix than drawing primary on ancient Rome.

    I am avoiding the "God of X" but instead say that "God is Y" and people invoke the god in areas where they think the god is interested and skilled to help.

    Right now its a bit thin of goddesses but I hope to add more in the future. The intention is for the pantheon to be HUGE. Not every god will be invoked by everyone and most don't know the whole pantheon. But I like large sets of characters and messy settings, so this is a good thing as far as I see.

    Kyria - Queen of the Cosmos, involved in pretty much every part of the cosmos
    Zakaries - The Thunderer and Lord of Heaven
    Agraia - Cultivator of the harvest and tender of the tame nature
    Thykos - Lord of the Sea
    Jonia - Teacher of civilization and the great craftswoman
    Hagaras - Lord of the Dead
    Venine - The Red Goddess of Passions
    Paearnos - The healing and mending god with sympathy for all those in pain
    Zagris - Heir of Kyria and young heroine
    Apokaios - The god who brings the light
    Uria - Mistress of the all that lives in the wild
    Aras - God who delights in violence, cunning and contests of life and death
    Haphesos - The greatest craftsman in the Cosmos
    Ithalena - Loves of horses and riding and is enthusiastic about horse sports and cavalry
    Hestios - Protector of the hearth and home who hates intruders and uninvited guests, the doorman and bouncer of Kyria's palace
    Herona - The goddess who shields civilization, justice and right from base impulses, corruption and perversion
    Diankhythos - Kind of like Dionysos
    Zephyria - The goddess who loves to fly on wings born by the winds
    Sagerios - The great friend of mankind
    Herice - Goddess in the darkness
    Efros - Rider of the Sun Chariot who spends the morning with Dawn and the evening with Dusk
    Gagoros - The hermit god with a soft spot for the outcast
    Morisa - The goddess who sends off the Sun Chariot after each night
    Kaurisa - The goddess who recives the Sun Chariot after each day
    Galomenes - Trickster among the gods
    Dikia- Herald of Kyria who comes bearing her mistress' decrees
    Tauron - Son of Dikia, a bull-headed god who breaks the bodies of the evil and then eats them, or at least did so in ages past
    Matrinna - Ancient Mother of the Gods
    Oikas and Oikia - The two lovers among the gods who aids people in matrimony and hates adulters and those manipulating people in love
    Gorias - Destroyer, violent brute and sympathic of those seeking violent vengeance
    Daliphamos - Dancing god among the flowers of the meadows
    Eurae - The four sister goddesses of the seasons
    Nighty_Knight likes this.
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    You can sort of do both through cults. All gods are recognized, but those in the cult of Gorias revere him before others. There could even be room for heresies of a sort. A Bogomil-like cult that says these two gods are the most ancient or even the only true gods; all others are but manifestations of the Two, or else are mere demons (a word that is neither negative nor positive).

    That way you can construct whatever you need for a given story. And you can have some history, with cults passing in and out of existence.
  12. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Henotheistic tendencies are of course very possible and not very uncommon, even if not mainstream either.

    Heresy requires orthodoxy. There are such a thing as wrong but its more likely to be considered eccentries which can lead to criminal actions and then the actions are punished, not the eccentric beliefs. Now holding weird beliefs can lead to social sanctions from your community but its not like the Middle Ages where the crown and church goes after opinions of a religious nature they find dangerous or distasteful.

    Also I should note that "demon" is a clearly negative word. "Daimon" is more neutral. :p

    As for construction for a story I agree, I think its easier for me to construct a general framework for a polytheistic tradition and then work with that and change things around and so avoid having to start from a blank papper every time.
    skip.knox likes this.
  13. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Some more gods, these will probably just keep coming.

    - A god of those defying the law with force and of outlaws and rebels. He has a soft spot for the kin of those who are hanged and sends little gifts their way to ease their loss. Clipped coins inscribed with prayers to him are not seldom found at places where hangings takes place.
    Dalkyne – The mistress of the letters and written word. She is Kyria’s scribe.
    Astrion - A dangerous god who breaks down cities and brings ruin, he is said to be sometimes seen dancing in the fires and ashes of burning cities and buildings.
    Oreia - A hunter goddess who also aids the people of the countryside and forests against outsiders, as well as favoring those who tends to dogs well. She feuds with the giants and satyrs and have laid many of them low with her bow.
    Sabrias - Oreia's brother who hunts on a great steed with a spear and packs of wilds dogs, and even wilder companions, to terrorize the earth and hunt down those wounded his sister's arrows. He lives for the hunt and the contests of strength and cunning and joins those hunting human prey. As such city watch hunting criminals, bounty hunters and outlaws all make offerings to him.
    Bukharos - A god of life and living. He enjoys good food, drink and all kinds of friendly interactions with other people. He hates murderers and those who traffic with the dead.
    Saris - A goddess who hates the unjust strong and strengthen the weak and poor to defend themselves
    Floria - Singing and dancing she heralds the spring and then leaves the earth during the autumn
    Akyre – A goddess of the family who soothes anger within the family and bring harmony. She detests those who forsake their kinship ties and aids those who help their kin. She has a specific place in her heart for young women moving from one family to another through marriage and is said to offer support to these women.
    Landaros – A god of treaty and oaths who punishes those undermining the order society and hates oathbreakers above everything else. He is kind and willing to aid those labouring under oaths that require sacrifices to keep.
    Kereia – A terrible goddess of war and death who joins the slaughter on the battlefield with her long claws and eats the hearts of the dead.
    Danaanos – A hero-god and ancestor-god to many a peoples. He travels the earth with adventures and romances and loves humankind.
    Helia – The Mistress of the Sun and interested in truth and justice, has a hair of fire and gold which is the light on the sun, and aids honest authorities and blinds the wicked.
  14. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    More and more gods for this setting. :)

    – A god who brings great harvest and laughs happily along with humanity in good times, but he can be so consumed with his own good times on Kurathos that he forgets the plights of humanity. He is kind to those who are born outside of wedlock.

    Ailakia – A rosy cheeked goddess with a passion for apples

    Anathalis – A goddess of the moon who is a patron of great adventures and sometimes offers young heroines to join her retinue for a time as a release from mortal hardship

    Bogoras – Brother of Lykander who breaths snow and frost over the world, connected with the Eurea goddess of winter but their exact relations changes between versions.

    Ursos – a bear-god who has a shapeshifting and warrior aspect to him, but also a god of the year and said to shield people from nightmares and aid parents in protecting their children.

    Aiaris – a goddess of the moon who is a craftswoman, favourable to silversmiths and loves silver and beautiful silver items. She was once courted by Lykander but they had a falling out.

    Staies – A protector of the farmer and aids and protects them. He favours the industrious and hates idle hands.

    Iaxas – A god who helps to pull the plough with farmers in the field and then stands guard to give warnings of dangers to the crops. He is a strong god who works hard but in his rest between endeavours on the farm he looks well upon those offering him bread and hard cheese with a sip of win to it. If honey can be added to the cheese all the better but he is not a god who drinks heavily.

    Lypoteia – A goddess who runs with wolves and hunts in the night. She is prone to waylay men with evil intentions after darkness falls. She is estranged from her old lover Lykander over a rebellion against her and Lykander from their sons.

    Lykander – A great patron of wolves who bears a grudge against mankind and his wolves sing for the goddess of Aiaris whom they remember with love. Lykander’s breath is the north wind, especially during winter.

    Arkia – Firstborn daughter to Lykander and Lypoteia, who supports women in forest communities who provides leadership for their kin and kith. She is also a protector of the birthrights of children to nobles and rulers

    Lakatos – an exiled son of Lykander who is said to be an ancestor-god to certain tribes and also connected with werewolves
  15. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    After some thinking on this I have decided to make this setting divided with both polytheism and monotheism, and various half-way positions between them and syncretic overlap. And while the history of polytheism is interesting, the history of monotheism is also very interesting. :D
    Aldarion likes this.
  16. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Something else than gods or religion this time around. Instead I'll post the first three kings of the Khorinian Dynasty. More parts of this dynasty are to follow. :)

    Khorinian Dynasty

    Khorinus I - Founded the dynasty by leading a palace revolution to topple the violent tyrant Draconus and drive his dynasty from power.

    Agius - Spent his years finishing off the Draconian Dynasty but in that work had his trust betrayed and turned against him and so sought escape in sensations of the mind, leading to a debauched tyranny within the palace and a negliance outside of it. Unclear if he died of his body's natural collapse under hedonism or if it was from poison.

    Titus the Whip - A new king dedicated to save the empire from its decline. In energetic fashion he took on the challenges and in true patriarchal ways he blamed women for the misconduct of Agius and his circle of friends, sycophants and flatterers, and in true patriarchal ways he sought to solve much of the issues caused by Agius and his circle, of mostly men, by controlling and suppressing women. He met his fate at the hands of women in the palace as his tyranny grew ever harsher and he rejected all advice to change his course.
  17. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Previously I have pretty much styled the culture after a version of the Roman Empire. Now I am thinking of perhaps making some research into makinig the cultural inspiration be more of an Etruscan, Spartan and possibly also Minoan kind of inspiration.

    Maybe nothing will come of this, but I think I'll look into this and see where it leads me.

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