Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Terrasan "Empire"

The Terrasan Empire is the most important polity to feature in a majority of any action that takes place in the DARK•HERITAGE setting.  However, I haven't really explained much about it yet, have I?  It's a kind of shadowy entity that hovers just out of sight while I explore regionally a bit more in depth, or talk about other polities on the fringe of the Terrasan orbit, such as Kurushat, Baal Hamazi, Qizmir or others.  It's probably time to rectify that a bit.  Before diving into the content proper, how about a little context and meta background?  OK.

When I first envisioned the Terrasan Empire, when it was part of a different setting called--unimaginatively--first Dark DnD and the later--more tongue in cheek--Leng Calling, I saw it as similar to the late Roman Empire.  A formerly powerful empire that was fading to decadence and impotency, but which still had some life left in it yet.  I transcribed that notion as is to DARK•HERITAGE when I first brought it over, but have since re-envisioned the empire as an altogether different type of thing.  I now see it as similar to the so-called Aragonese Empire, more properly called the Crown of Aragon.  The Crown of Aragon was never a proper Empire.  It started, of course, as the modest Frankish kingdom of Aragon, and as it expanded due to warfare with the taifa states as well as its rivals and to dynastic union, it grew to encompass the Kingdom of Barcelona (including the county of Provence) then later Valencia and Majorca.  This large coastline as well as an eastward looking Mediterranean outlook eventually brought, at various times, the rest of the Balearic Islands, Malta, Sardinia, Sicily, briefly Corsica, Naples (which at the time really meant the lower two-thirds of the Italian boot) and the duchy of Athens, which included large portions of the northeastern Grecian coastline.

However, for the most part, these various polities were only united in the person of the King of Aragon, who also simultaneously held the titles of Count of Barcelona, King of Sardinia, King of Majorca, etc.  They were never united into a single polity with a single administration and a united national front; rather they were separate countries who just happened to be ruled at the same time by the same single person.  And my new version of the Terrasan Empire is more like this Crown of Aragon; Esteve Gregorio de Galdames de Rossolló is the King of Terrasa, as well as being the King of Alcàsser and Segrià, the Duke of Razina, the Tolosas, Posada and Feronia, and the Count of Iclezza.  The King of Sènt-Haspar is a sworn vassal of the King of Terrasa, which brings him into the orbit as well.

This means that the politics of the Terrasan Empire are a bit byzantine and bizarre, especially as King Esteve is not a strong or particularly engaged king, being more concerned with the pursuit of his mistresses and his sports, the Empire is run by competing nobles, royals, and bureaucrats.  Each individual state within the Empire has more autonomy than at any time in the past--a development that worries those who support a strong empire--fears of total dissolution and break-up are both commonly voiced and not without merit.

Culture and language across the empire is also not consistent.  Many of the regional polities have their own culture, their own governmental traditions, their own religious persuasions, and more.  Perhaps more importantly as an impediment to unification, they have their own languages, although it is a matter of public policy to refer to all of them as regional dialects of the Terrasan language rather than to recognize the true level of diversity.  In the real world, before the advent of strong, nationalist states and mass-produced media, linguistic diversity was very strong in Europe, and even now, several generations after the advent of those features, there are a lot of minority languages floating around out there.

For simplicity's sake, I've consolidated the dialects of the Terrasan Empire into three big name lists, and I represent them with a mix of Portuguese and Catalan on for the southern shore, Italian for the northern shore and Romanian for the more easterly dialects.  In reality, a number of other more or less closely related languages should be in there two--the southern languages should be represented by a good dozen or so languages like Leonese, Portuguese, Catalan, Aragonese, Asturian, Occitan and others, the northern shore by another dozen or so languages like Sardinian, Sicilian, Piedmontese, Venetian, Corsican, etc. and the eastern dialects should show similar diversity.  Of course, in reality, it's hard enough for people wanting to find names and phrases from a region to deal with the simplified version as it is; making it as complex as verisimilitude demands it to be would be impossibly difficult.

Despite these vast differences, most of the peoples of the Terrasan Empire have a cultural link, being descended from settlers, soldiers, conquistadores or merchants who set out from Terrasa in the distant past.  While they may not have necessarily seen this expansion as a nationalist pursuit, pan-Terrasan patriotism is a jingoistic sentiment that some have attempted to cultivate and exploit amongst the constituents.  Of course, this is a dual-edged sword--some of the peoples of the Empire are not descended from that cultural and linguistic group, and strong separatist Balshatoi sentiment is a major concern in the north, and in some parts of the east, the people identify almost as much with Qizmir as with Terrasa.  Other expatriate ethnic groups within the borders of the empire also view some of these developments with trepidation.

Because of cultural and economic links, all of the Terrasan "countries" have always maintained strong political and economic ties, and intermarriage of their royal houses--which led to the state of dynastic union that exists today--had always been common.  Despite this, nationalist sentiment with the various "Terrasan" nationalities is still strong as well and demonstrations, riots, coup attempts and other civil unrest is not terribly uncommon, especially when the tax-men come around, or when Imperial soldiers start bullying the locals.  As Terrasa's strength has waned and faded, parts of the empire have either quietly gone their own way, like Calça, or been quietly influenced in the direction of a rival, as Sarabasca and a vast (and mostly unpopulated) stretch of backcountry gradually became Qizmiri, or even like Porto Liure, where an revolutionary city-state was able to force Terrasa to a military stand-off and negotiate its autonomy and independence forever.

Next DARK•HERITAGE specific post: details of the city of Terrasa itself.

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