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Vetronia - political organization

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Aldarion, May 7, 2020.

  1. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    This is the overview of my setting's "protagonist" state political organization:


    So, I have a few questions re:the above:

    1) Are there any holes that really need adressing?

    2) How stable/unstable will such system be? I know that Byzantine Empire had regular "elections" (read: thematic armies beating up each other over who will be the Emperor) but what about other aspects - importance of cities (since here cities do have some tradition of self-governance) etc..?

    3) Which corner are disturbances most likely to come from? Personally, I'd say that it would be provincial governors, but is there anything I'm missing?
     
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  2. enoch driscoll

    enoch driscoll Scribe

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    From what i see, it seems that this system greatly benefits the common good, but could probably hurt minorities, especially poor ones. they wouldn't be able to attend the scheduled meetings and wouldn't be able to have the time or manpower to perform a successful protest. also, there would probably several types of parties in the senate, each with their own agenda, unless there were laws in place that prevented collaboration on bills.

    if you read through history, you will often find that senates with little power are dismissed by their emperor or king, for little reason at all. it seems highly likely that, as with the roman empire, the emperor would proclaim his son leader regardless of laws in place preventing it, thus leading to a fixed royal family.

    these aren't absolutes, but just previously common ways governments have fallen apart.
     
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  3. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    Eh, Senate is more of a consultative body than a real power (I based this stuff on Byzantine Empire). And even then, there are no parties in the Senate, as there are no elections of type you see in modern "democracies". Rather, person enters Senate if they have enough support/resources to threaten mass mobilization of people, and then they essentially represent those supporting them. Or at least that is the idea; basically, the patron-client relationships from Ancient Rome. Where senate would (likely) be important is interregnum, when there are multiple claimants or no claimants at all.

    Byzantine Senate - Wikipedia

    It is less of laws and more of custom. Roman Empire never had any laws against primogeniture... because it never had primogeniture in the first place. Blood dynasties only really developed in 12th century. Macedonian dynasty? Half the emperors came from outside the family. Etc.
     
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  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    The way to spot holes is to ask questions, so here are some.

    >However, the Emperor is not an absolute ruler.
    What if he was? Or, what if one tried to rule thus? What would be the circumstances that might favor it, what would be his justifications, and what might be the consequences of the attempt (successful or not)?

    >Laws are invariably based on the customs and tradition.
    Now think of one that wouldn't be. Emergency legislation, for example. Or new laws introduced by a tyrant. How might that play out? How would it strain the system?

    >For laws to matter, they have to be advantageous to the comunity
    An empire isn't one community but a composite of many. What sort of law might advantage one community to the detriment of another? How would that be received? How might it lead to tensions or even to unexpected benefits?

    >leisured classes that do not contribute to the society despite being able to are not part of the res publica.
    This one does seem problematic, as leisured classes are invariably wealthy classes, and wealth means power. How could you keep a leisured class separate from the res publica? The one example that comes to mind is monasteries (though in Byzantium even monasteries could wield great political influence). They could be legally, socially, and customarily separate from the republic while still controlling vast resources.

    As for stability, imo no system in the abstract is inherently stable or unstable. That comes from human beings. As my Roman history prof often said, if you showed the Roman Republic to a political scientist, they'd say it couldn't work. The Republic only worked because the Romans believed it worked. When they stopped believing, it started to unravel. So the stability of your empire is entirely in the hands of its inventor. <g>
     
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  5. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    Cheers for a setting drawing inspiration from Byzantium! I'll make some comments below on points 1 and 3 mostly for what caught my eye.

    How big of an empire do we talk about here? Personally I find it very unreal that any political union could be created on a sheer voluntarily basis as to justify the title of "empire". I would advice that you don't try to paint a state, and even less so an empire, as a creation of goodness as to my knowledge all empires do evil things to become and remain empires.

    Besides if Vetronia is only ever a morally superior punching bag the backstory and likley course of events politically in the story are likely be predictable and, in my opinion, boring. The real Byzantine Empire was totally able to punch its neighbors in the face to claim territory or raid for loot, while even the sometimes maligned "Good-vs-Evil" Tolkien has his good guys do both stupid and cruel things in their history. Gondor has had both stupid and tyrannical kings, the Rohirrim are engaged in some very questionable policy with the Dunlendings, never mind how the Rohirrim were gifted the Dunlendings' land by a king in Gondor, if I recall.

    So I guess my point is that, don't go over the top with how good. or aweful, a certain country is. But try to focus on the people living in it and in my opinion run with how people are different and a border on a map does not decide if someone is born, raised or grow into becoming good or bad.

    How are the will of the people decided? Because if there's no democratic system then the "will of the people" will kind of be a talking point for the elite's vanity without any relevance behind it. Or so it seems to me.

    Wealth is power and status and power and status gives more power and status. Now you can, in my opinion, have it so that the norm among the elite is to serve the Empire in various ways, but the idea that you can cut loose a whole leasure class from political participation if these have much wealth seems very unrealsitic to me.

    Is this the government posters, or how it works?

    Well, I think any people with power can cause problem and the army should really not be discounted. All the way from Augustus I recall Roman armies were paid centrally yet rebellions still happened, like the Crisis of the Third Century. The possession of weapons often gives people funny ideas about what they should use those weapons for.
     
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  6. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    That is another case of "theory vs practice" conundrum, so obvious in Byzantine history. In theory, Emperor is indeed an absolute ruler. But in reality, absolute rule assumes political passivity on part of the populace. So what happens if Emperor tries abusing his power?
    - Emperor pissess off populace of capital? Great, now he's got rebellion on his hands and is likely holed up in his palace trying to survive.
    - Emperor pissess off provincial populace? Well, provincial army is financed directly from provinces (note that soldiers have what is essentially stratioka ktemata / pronoia). So they don't, technically, need him. Commanders themselves are paid by central government, but this merely means that, instead of declaring independence, they will march on the capital in order to secure their source of income.

    Did Byzantine Empire have emergency legislation? As for new laws introduced by a tyrant, I'd say that they would be mostly ignored. After all, if following old customs is enough to keep society functioning and keep you out of trouble, nobody has incentive to actually familiarize themselves with actual legal code. Further, in Byzantine political ideology, Emperor too was subject to laws, and could not, in fact, change laws willy-nilly. If Emperor's rule was perceived as lawless, then he invited rebellion against his authority. Basically what we have is salus rei publicae suprema lex; which then answers your question: if such laws were created, and sufficiently disrupted normal life, they would cause unrest and possibly rebellion. Laws are not the standard of common values or standard of judgement, but merely legal (textual) expression of common values.

    Honestly, I think that Byzantines would find our preoccupation with written legislation rather silly. In their view, moral (which included religious) always trumped legal: Emperors could change legal standards as they wanted to, but moral standards always remained.

    Empire is a single community which consists of many communities. And those communities are often comprised of communities of their own. Romania was a res publica unified by a broad consensus. In my setting, you would have communities on the order of the Empire > ethnic/linguistic groups > tribal communities > individual settlements. Politically, it is Empire > provinces > settlements. Imperial legislature governs matters that concern the Empire as a whole; rest would be left to local leaders, city councils and other authorities.

    Of course, even such laws would have different impact in different portions of the Empire. Which could then lead to local unrest and possibly rebellion. Which in turn serves as proof of legislature's legitimacy: if legislature causes unrest in significant areas of the Empire, then it has to be changed. I imagine that various taxes might cause unrest, including trade regulations.

    It is essentially a moral standard. Much like in Roman Republic: it is expected that they contribute to the society, in accordance with their possibilities. To use example from Croatian history, many wealthy Croatian nobles were reduced to poverty while serving as viceroys (bans) of Croatia during Ottoman wars: serving as such was honour, but also produced obligation to utilize one's own resources to help defend kingdom as a whole (and not just, for example, one's own lands, as many nobles were liable to do). Of course, many wealthy would not care about such moral standards, which would then lead to conflict.

    Agreed.
     
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  7. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    1) That paragraph talking about formation of the Empire is technically talking about formation of the state, not when state became an Empire. As noted in the text, it went alliance > federation > empire. So an alliance of independent cities, followed by a more unitary government, followed by imperial rule. In other words, not unlike how Roman Republic formed.

    2) Define "only ever". Historically speaking, Vetronia went Roman route (I did base it on Roman Empire): first it entered alliance with neighbouring cities, then it dominated that alliance, and then it went on a conquering spree. Then it all fell apart, and now the remnants of the Empire are holding out against new, neighbouring Empire trying to conquer *them*. Essentially, imagine if Roman Empire in the West actually pulled off a comeback and renewed itself, before throwing it in against Ottoman Empire during 15th and 16th centuries. That is the situation we are looking at here (in fact, my whole setting started from that very thought: "what if Western Roman Empire never fell", though it ended up going a significantly different route and I decided to turn it into outright alternate reality).

    What I am trying to say here is, *right now*, Vetronia kinda is morally superior punching bag, simply because it is defending itself (and some allies) against significantly superior expanding power - think Hungary and later on Habsburgs against Ottoman Empire, or Byzantine Empire against Caliphate. But it was not always that way. Kinda like Elves (or Rohan, or Gondor) from Lord of the Rings: they seem nice, spotless, pure and sinless *right now*; but once you start digging through their history... ooo boy. (And unlike Matthias Corvinus, there are no neighbours to the West to beat up to show how it is not so perfect).

    Not really. As I wrote in my answer to slipknox:

    "In theory, Emperor is indeed an absolute ruler. But in reality, absolute rule assumes political passivity on part of the populace. So what happens if Emperor tries abusing his power?
    - Emperor pissess off populace of capital? Great, now he's got rebellion on his hands and is likely holed up in his palace trying to survive.
    - Emperor pissess off provincial populace? Well, provincial army is financed directly from provinces (note that soldiers have what is essentially stratioka ktemata / pronoia). So they don't, technically, need him. Commanders themselves are paid by central government, but this merely means that, instead of declaring independence, they will march on the capital in order to secure their source of income."

    "Further, in Byzantine political ideology, Emperor too was subject to laws, and could not, in fact, change laws willy-nilly. If Emperor's rule was perceived as lawless, then he invited rebellion against his authority. Basically what we have is salus rei publicae suprema lex; which then answers your question: if such laws were created, and sufficiently disrupted normal life, they would cause unrest and possibly rebellion. Laws are not the standard of common values or standard of judgement, but merely legal (textual) expression of common values."

    That is only really true if there is no pushback. But remember that we are here talking about state with *significant* middle class: soldiers (who would be upper middle class) and small landowners (lower middle class - who support soldiers). And Emperor and central government also would not want the rich to become too powerful, as allowing them too much power would erode governmental tax base (even today, most tax cuts are given *to the rich*). Emperor depends on support of the army, which means of the middle class; small merchants etc. would also look to him for protection against the powerful. Therefore, central government has significant incentive to constrain the wealthy, up to and including cutting them out if they do not contribute.

    Neither. It is a cultural expectation, which may or may not correspond to reality.

    I did not discout the army:
    Though I should probably elaborate on that in the writeup itself.
     
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  8. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    I added these sections:

    Most day-to-day governance however is carried out at individual settlement level. Many laws – those which concern internal governnace of cities – are in the hands of city assemblies. These assemblies can range from only richest people in the city to the entire adult male populace. Most often however they are comprised of military personnel – thematic troops and city militia.

    -----

    Politics of power

    Empire has essentially three power blocks: Emperor, large landowners (optimates), and small landowners (populares). Last group is centered primarily on military personnel and many local officials. Aside from those three Empire-wide groups, there is the fourth group – inhabitants of the capital – who push their influence by direct pressure on the Emperor.

    In terms of power relations, Emperor and small landowners usually unite against large landowners. Prohibition on maintenance of private militia means that large landowners cannot directly defy the Emperor, and instead have to attempt to install an Emperor who is favourable to them. Fact that the Emperor himself must rely also on support from the military means that it is impossible for an Emperor who favours any single group to exclusion of all others to remain on the throne. It also means that access to imperial military power is necessary to push one's agenda in a violent manner – town militias are simply not enough – which again serves to curtail separatism.

    Army is recruited directly from provincial populace. Recruitment system means that military units are heavily localized and highly integrated into local community. Thus they also serve as a medium through which provincial populace can express its political interests. If central government mismanages provinces, it can easily cause anything from passive resistance to all-out rebellion.
     
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  9. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    This is possibly a bit off-topic but I thought that I would give a suggestion to Vetronia for a tourney-ish kind of events for a Byzantine-inspired empire.

    The "Hippika Gymnasia" which may or may not have been practiced in the Byzantine period could perhaps be used. I know for example that GRRM has made great use of the concept of the medieval tourney, and so I bring this to your attention, AldarionAldarion , in case you might find it useful and interesting in your writing.

    Hippika gymnasia - Wikipedia
     
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  10. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    Thanks. Vetronia is a mix of Classical Rome, Byzantine Empire and Holy Roman Empire anyway, so tournaments would not be out of place.
     
  11. MythicLearner

    MythicLearner Dreamer

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    First of all, I am not an experienced writer. Please take my word with the grain of salt.
    I think you are doing well. You tried to do a Roman empire pick the new emperor.

    I think that is how the Roman empire's political works. Rember Julius Caesar! That is how civil war work in the roman empire, so your story is really believable. You are doing a good job. The Roman empire was last for 1000 years.

    The surprise forces that will change this empire forever like the germanic tribes and the finisher is the ottoman empire. The infighting makes the empire for the outsider to easily defeat a more powerful empire.
     
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  12. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    Technically, this empire is based on Middle Byzantine period (cca 624. - 1071.). They managed to survive despite nearly constant civil wars, so "outsider to easily defeat a more powerful empire" is not a given.
     
  13. MythicLearner

    MythicLearner Dreamer

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    AldarionAldarion,sorry I am confused. Do you create a low fantasy or you create alternative history novel?:ROFLMAO:
    The civil war weakned the Roman empire resources and economic just like any wars. Again, it is just a starting you can do whatever you wished. After you is your novel, I hope your book is popular. :)
     
  14. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    A mix of low fantasy, high fantasy and alternate history. Basic premise is "Western Roman Empire survives migrations", but then geography is massively different, there is a species of underwater-dwelling amphibious humanoids that is hostile to humans, zombie apocalypse is just another day at the office, and there may or may not be an omnicidal dragon floating around - who himself may or may not be undead.
     
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