Campaign of the Month: June 2012
The Empire has changed considerably since Constantine’s first use of magic at the Milvius Bridge. So decisive was that battle that none dared oppose him and he became the most powerful ruler in Phthyan history. He needed more druids, but the Cymbric tribes were reluctant to aid the Phthyans thoroughly. The druids led a number of revolts, but at this point the Cymbrians were reluctant to participate, their own division being their worst enemy. The Phthyans dealt with these revolts brutally. The newly reformed Praetorian Guard used insidious methods to extract information from what the Phthyans viewed as a perverse and barbaric cult. But the revolts did bring change, reforming the Phthyan view of the world. The druids had access to extensive rites and used them against the Phthyans. This showed the Phthyans, once again, that it was better to have the barbarians on their side rather than battling them. Also, it showed that these barbarians had a good grasp of how the world actually worked. Still, even Phthya’s closest Cymbric allies would not share their knowledge of magic.
To this end Constantine set up the Scholae Magorum to study and apply magic to the expansion of the Phthyan Empire. This came to haunt his descendants as an organization since it fell under
the power of the Senate on Constantine’s death. The path that the Phthyans follow to magic is different from the Cymbrians’; it is more structured and although some aspects did not fit their view of the world, their myths, or their faiths, it did enable them to meet the challenge of an increasingly magical world.
Political Intrigue in Phthya
Phthya is rife with politics. It lessens to some extent in the provinces but does not disappear. There is always a patrician attempting to increase their vast fortune, advance their agenda or increase their fame. The Imperial purple is not the only target in the Empire but it is the most obvious. Many posts in dioeceses serve to increase wealth especially in the north (Fthilis, Cortesia, and to some extent Aenea). Successfully dealing with the southern dioeceses will often bring political allies or fame. It is not without its wealth but the northern dioeceses far outshine the south.
There are schemes at all levels and the highest are often invisible to the novice. Experience brings a clarity but one must possess power and leverage over others in order to play in the upper tiers of Phthyan politics. These can be acquired through political service in offices like the Augury or as the Pontifex Maximus, head of the state religion. Serving in the Senate also exposes one to opportunity as well as danger but there can be no gain without risk.
Finally, it is very important to realize that power often equates to knowledge, and not just any knowledge. To know that a Senator’s wife is having an affair is only beneficial if it is not common knowledge. Likewise, knowing that a tribune sold weapons is of no concern, but if he sold them to the Drusai, that is power.
Allies of a like mind can be useful, and having a powerful oratory can convince others to join the cause, but there is no end to the depth of the complexity of intrigue within politics. Wealth and information are two good bases but an army can also be a powerful tool.
Remember, there is always someone higher up manipulating those below them. Even the Emperor answers to someone. These people may change, rise and fall but someone will be there to profit from all situations.
Although there are political parties representing any view that can be expressed, there are two primary parties that usually control the Senate; the Populares (People’s Party) and the Optimates (Senatorial Party). The Populares stand for the extension of rights to provincials (a goal mostly realized), cancellation of debt and the distribution of land. The Optimates favor the status quo, opposing the changes that the Populares champion. The battle is not one of ideology but more one of new power versus old power. Over the centuries the Populares has gained popularity with the poor by championing the extension of citizenship to conquered peoples, thus gaining their votes and creating a pool of clients to draw from. The patrons could command their clients to vote as the patron wished. The patron, in exchange, often ensured prosperity for their clients.
Muliebris is a newly formed women’s party which has its base amongst the Comitia Magi. The leader of the Muliebris is a patrician magus named Musa Roscius. She has the ear of Gaia Silvanus and the party has made strides forward due to this connection. The Muliebris demands nothing less than for women of the Empire to be treated equally with men. The advances in magic and technology have made this possible (see Women of the Phthyan Empire for more information). The Optimates vehemently oppose this party and their ideals on the grounds of tradition and the matronly role of women. They see the Muliebris as an indicator of the decay of the Phthyan traditional family and morals. The Populares see a possible ally here but are reluctant to back the Muliebris entirely until they are more established. Currently the Muliebris has a single Senator to represent them in the Senate, Helvius Severus. He is a man, but from a powerful family.
The Pereginates are a small group of Senators that favor increased trade and contact with foreign countries. They are not very popular since they include traditional enemies in the
list of sovereigns they feel should be contacted. Drusas is the biggest objection most people have to these Senatorís plans since the plebeians consider them the most terrifying menace to Phthyans. Nonetheless the Peregrinates have gained popularity as pioneers in commerce and economics for the Empire and have generated legislation that has reaped prosperous results. The Pereginates have recently established a small peaceful colony in the City of Venchenzia, the first step on the monumental stairway of bringing a peace between the Empire and the powerful Free Kingdoms. The head of the party is Decimus Tadius Sabinus.
The Empire has over 400,000 officials, with more added every year. They are often involved in the accounting, resource management, tax collection and general administration of the Empire. This bureaucracy can often slow down or halt efforts of even the most powerful of citizens unless they know how to manipulate the system. In some cases this involves bribes but in others one need only know the best person to talk to or how to talk to them. This knowledge can open the doors to vast treasures.
The Empire runs on contracts made with its citizens to supply it with everything from blankets for the legions to silk for the Emperor. The Censores are the ones who grant these contracts and they hold a great deal of power over the mercators of the Empire. The Censores, in turn, are influenced by the Senate which elects the Censores every five years. Obviously, the opportunities are boundless but they are balanced by the influence one is able to bring to bear on the people involved. Within the Empire, lesser contracts are sometimes handled by the Aediles, who have taken on more responsibilities as the Empire has grown. They usually still need the approval of the Censores but he Censores never entrust large or important contracts to the Aediles and thus the Aedilesí decisions are almost always approved.
Threats to the Empire
The Phthyan Empire has a number of enemies and they are not all Rus barbarians at the gate. Many of the most potent threats to the stability of the Empire comes from its own officials, internal rebellions, and power plays by individuals. All of these make the rise of mythical creatures over the past several centuries almost seem mundane. To be sure the Drusai, Rus and Northlanders all pose threats that must be dealt with but they with hold military action for a number of reasons.
The Drusai do not have the numbers to attack the Empire directly, but Free Drusas has fortified their borders and command potent creatures in their arsenal, charmed into service by the Priests of the Muses. Beyond that, the Drusai have a splintered structure that makes raising a unified army difficult. Families tend to resist pooling their soldiers with others out of distrust.
The Jade Emperor has strong advantages in the area of military technology but lacks a strongly disciplined army like that of the Phthyans. Distance and internal division, including the fact that the Phthyan Empire is no longer a direct threat, keep the Three Kingdoms of Mung-Lí in relative check. The numbers favor him but they are mostly made up of peasant militia.
The High King of the Free Kingdoms, on the other hand, has trained armies and leagues of powerful wizards in his pocket. But for the time being, they seem to be content across the sea, as long as the Empire keeps off their precious soil. The lesson pummeled into the Imperial Armies after the Cymbrians officially joined the Free Kingdoms, signing the Treatise of Myrdrolyn, taught a valuable lesson. The knights of that realm are independent loyalists who rally troupes and fight like no other army, due to their deep pride in their kin and country. Perhaps the High King prefers to bide his time, waiting for one of the inevitable Phthyan internal upheavals. An earlier attempt at wresting the Cymbric land from the Phthyans was overwhelmingly successful, and the Phthyans were pushed east, right off the coastline.
The Northlanders represent a strange threat. They do not represent a serious military force and have little interest in conquering the Phthyan lands. But they are interested in raiding and this imposes a man draining defense on the caspian seas and coasts.
The Rus on the northern borders are the greatest current threat. Were it not for Aenean firearms and the strength of the Fthilian economy and military, the Rus would have long pushed down on the borders. As it is, the northern expansion of the last three centuries has proved ineffective, and the Emperors have chosen to leave the north be. It is everything they can do to hold the Caspian coastal cities. However, this is minor compared to the Carpathian trade threat. The Carpathians are excellent traders and have repeatedly beaten Phthyan mercators in trade routes and contracts, specifically regarding the Silk Road. They are not above attacking a Phthyan train in order to save themselves time or to acquire goods for free. All these factors threaten the economic stability of the Empire.
Magical beasts have become more and more common and are now getting organized. There was a period when singular powerful monsters could terrorize the Phthyans but this is now very uncommon, occurring in only the most distant provinces. On the rise are migrations like the Orcs from the wild Hordeland, and many new creatures flooding into the Alabic nations. The Green Spirit Swamp has shown much more activity, including a rampaging dragon that has threatened (and devastated) many bordering tows. It is believed that the Drusai are charming these creatures. The change in climate may also seem to affect all these creatures adversely, turning them into man eaters.
Giants have been coming south out of Rus and the Nothlands harassing Fthilis (they tend to avoid the magic dead zones of Aenea). This has caused a range of problems not the least of which is the raids on farms and the destruction of herds.
Thankfully, the Astorani have been peaceful neighbors to the north, ever since The Great Blight War lo those many centuries ago. Still, they are a long-lived people, and elves bear grudges as deeply as dwarves, or so say the legendary songs.
The Senate has regained a great deal of power in the Phthyan Empire. They now control the Comitia Magi via the Schola system of schools, appointing the teachers in those schools and admitting new members to the Comitia Magi. In addition, after the death of Constantine the Senate was able to firmly establish its control over the Imperial Treasury and, more importantly, the military payroll. This was a coup pulled off by the Senator Amulius Piscius, who had served for many years in Constantine’s armies and had seen the trouble that Imperial power brought. The popularity of Constantine’s sons (Constans and Constantius II) was in question and the young emperors, dealing with external threats in the north by the Rus, had to bow to the power of Piscius.
After these changes to the constitution were enacted, the Senate lost some ground due to the untimely death of Piscius. Constans soon died during their struggle in the north and his brother, Constantius II, took power there. The Senate did not approve and put his cousin Julian in power, cementing the Senateís ability to appoint. Although Constantine II attempted civil war, his soldiers saw that the Senate acted in the best interests of the Empire. They killed Constantine II and affirmed Julian as Emperor. This martial practice became more and more rare as the military came under the effective control of the Senate. The Emperor was still in command of military actions but the Senate held the purse strings and approved any extraordinary purchases.
The Senate used these powers to lay claim to sections of new lands conquered and to take an active interest in their development. This supplied the Imperial coffers with wealth and gave individual Senators access to the best of the newly conquered lands.
Inevitably this led to reforms in the structure of the Senate during Julianís rule. He saw the logical extension of the senate to the the dioeceses allowing the patricians of conquered people a say in the affairs of the Empire. Senatus Provincialis were founded in the same model as the Phthyan Senate. These provincial senates had less power but were allowed to send one of their number to the Phthyan Senate as a representative. They did not have any military power and had to work with their Phthyan governor in civil matters, but it made rule of the dioeceses much more stable, allowing those that would normally lead revolts to be part of their government. This, with other social and political reforms, were called the Julian Reforms and breathed new life into the Empire. Julian was looked upon as a great reformer for his insights into the workings of the Imperial machine and the thoughts of the citizens.
Through these changes the Phthyan Empire came closer than it has been for centuries to being a Republic again. This is the fate of the Empire, to swing towards and away from the Republic it once was.