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|lReign of Scipio:|
1184 (431)-1205 (452)
|Reign of Draco:|
1205 (452)-1238 (485)
1238 (485)-1290 (537)
The election of Draconus signaled the end of the great Antonine dynasty of emperors. Extinctions of an imperial line were an uncommon event for Rome - this being only the second after the infamous Julio-Claudians died with Nero. That first succession of dynasties resulted in a civil war which threatened the stability of the empire. By the foresight of a 4th century emperor, a law for how to handle a sede vacante now existed to guide the people into electing a new leader.
Gaius Julius Draconus (452-485)
At first glance, Draco seemed an odd choice to be emperor. As a senator, he was both ambitious and young while possessing a terrifically short temper. He was known to have no tolerance for mistakes from his servants, often firing his assistants for even the slightest transgressions. No one doubted his behaviour would be magnified should he receive the power of a Caesar.
Yet there were good reasons for his election by his peers. Draco had an almost legendary competence as proconsul of Achaia and had been a consistent voice of reason in the Senate. Before he became governor, Achaia's bureaucracy was a cesspit of corruption, bribery, and extortion through all ranks of its government. During his tenure, every corrupt magistratus and apparitor faced judgement in one of the public courts of Rome, purifying the bureaucracy of corrupt officials. Within a year, Achaia had become a model for the rest of the Imperium. With his new reputation, Draco became one of the youngest senators to achieve the high office of Consul Italiarum, receiving it from the emperor before his year. With this position, he reorganized trade routes between Italy and its breadbasket provinces, reducing the total distance traveled by the grain fleets.
When he received the diadem, Draco made it clear the Senate what sort of government he wanted. His opening speech talked of "purging the sickness from Rome", mentioning several notorious senators to warn them to change their ways before he began to rout corruption. Expecting a threat of this sort, these were unsurprisingly the senators who had most strongly opposed Draco's election to princeps civitatis and princeps senatus (in a word, to Emperor of Rome).
However, Draco also distanced himself from his supporters, clearly stating that, as honest citizens, those who voted him into his new position did not do so to gain favor but to elect a competent leader. For this gift, he owed them nothing and, if anything, he warned that those senators "have placed the burden of Atlas on [his] shoulders. Who in their sanity would be grateful for this?"
Some emperors before Draconus had shirked their responsibilities to the state - Aurelius, Maximius, and even venerable Scipio had left the mundane task of administration to magistrati and other public officials. This would not continue under Draco, who was known to personally check the reports on grain shipments, public trials, and the like, but he was not too personal in his administrative work to avoid restructuring the bureaucracy to better manage the growing empire.
In this regard, Draco's greatest reform is surely his expansion and streamlining of the aedileship. A few months into his reign, he abolished the six aediles plebes, aediles curules, and aediles cereales - these magistrates had become mere servants to the Caesars, who abused the aedile authority over public spending by using them as errand boys in their personal spending. In their place, Draco created new magistracies bearing the name and role of the aediles.
Foremost among these offices were the four aediles curules that he stationed in Rome. Each imperial aedile would be made responsible for a specific duty pertaining to the management of the city of Rome. One of them would supervise the grain dole, another would supervise the renovation and maintenance of public buildings (basilicae) within the city limits, a third would plan the days and times for public games, and the last one would supervise the public services, namely the vigiles (police forces), spartoliani (fire department), galenariae (hospitals), and quisquili (street cleaners). The second aedile received the secondary duty of approving all expenditure bills passed by the Senate, only refusing bills when they violated restrictions imposed by the empire's master of the treasury - the Magister Fiscalis. An emperor could now spend without aedile approval.
For spending outside Italy, Draco instituted twenty aediles provinciales. The responsibilities of a provincial aedile would vary with his placement. Postings were permanently allocated to the cities of Byzantium, Carthage, Antioch, Pergamum, Melita, Alexandria, and Lugdunum but the other 13 aediles provinciales would go wherever the Senate demanded. Their sole purpose in the provinces was to distribute the wealth of the empire through judicious spending. When assigned temporarily to a province, an aedilis could spend as much as he was allocated for his tenure (a mere year) but he was encouraged to spend from his own pocket, a generosity that would earn him a name in Rome and a strong reputation in his assigned province. Few aediles would ever be permitted to spend more than two million denarii during the reign of Draco.
At this point in Roman history, much of the government consisted of unofficial bureaucrats appointed at the whim of emperors. Each Caesar would tend to place his own people in positions of power, ignoring existing magistracies for the same purposes or filling a hole that had been left unfilled by a previous administration. Competent emperors such as Faustilon and Agricola had made great use of this mode of government, but then they were also the ones to institute other new magistracies. Draco's efforts would be a similar step forward for the bureaucracy of Rome, allowing him to fire hundreds of men on a public payroll.
Magistracies were an effective tool of government, one that Rome had pioneered during the Republic. Unlike other citizens who participated in the bureaucracy, such as the censitores (census-takers) and fiscatores (tax collectors), a magistrate received no wage and had the authority (imperium or potestas) to come to his own decisions. In many ways, the magistracies were the primary reason for maintaining a strong noble class, as plebeians could not afford to work for nothing but honor and power.
Reforming the aedileship in particular would place greater authority over public spending into the hands of the Senate, removing the possibility that his successors would waste as much money paying bureaucrats as his predecessors. At least, a long rule would firmly ingrain his reforms into the informal constitution of the empire and be an obstacle to counter-reforms.
Securing the frontier
Among the issues facing Rome, foremost was the continued conquest of Magna Germania (Greater Germany). One emperor had died fighting for the land and another emperor, who was well-loved by the people, had urged the necessity of conquest after the Hunnic Confederation invaded. Draco would not dishonor the efforts of these men. The four legions and 320,000 conscripts were still mobilized beyond the present frontiers and the emperor would not have them return until they had established a new border.
With this goal, the Roman armies advanced for another two and a half years, killing no less than 150,000 Germans who were left behind by the great migration - a slaughter of almost a fifth of the remaining population. All officers had strict orders to halt once they reached the Vistullus (Vistula River) but no sooner. A geographer accompanying each group would determine when their journey was a success. The last legion to find its target, the mouth of the Vistillus where it flowed into the Mare Suebicum (Baltic Sea), sent its messenger home on the kalends of August 454. Every group fortified itself into its position on the river, sending patrols along its length both for communication and to alert the legions to any Germanic tribes which broke their treaty obligations. Some tribal groups did attempt to return but many were repulsed, contributing to the fervor with which this loose confederation was traveling away from Rome.
Word arrived from the emperor in late November. His message commended the generals and their men for their great service to the Roman Empire, matching the civil contributions of the generals of Julius Caesar himself. Draco designated their location at the time of his letter as the limes venetus, a new permanent border which extended up to a small gap between the Vistillus and the River Tyras. However, he lamented that Rome could never expect a mere river (wide as it was) to repel her enemies from raiding her lands. Only a strong wall, manned by legionaries, would suffice.
Each legion would have its duties in the annexation of the new territory. One would lead the conscripts back to Italy, sweeping through Germany once more to rout out more native tribes. The other three legions were to begin construction on the brick wall that would precede the proper frontier barrier and serve as its eventual inner core. When the first legion arrived, another three would escort architects, miners, and other laborers to the border to work on the wall.
With their mobile brick kilns, the legions had finished their wall not long after reinforcement builders arrived, finishing the last stretch of the core in 458. Brick and mortar made a good inner component for a stone wall as they were apt to absorb the shock of heavy impacts, flexing and compressing more easily than large stones. As a temporary outer layer, they were not ideal, as brick walls were easily broken apart by siege weapons, but they would be enough to block any returning emigrants. Work on the stone outer layer began as soon as the builders arrived, with instructions to simply build the second layer wherever the legions had completed their part of this great undertaking. The builders would have little rest until they finished their task in 481.
Their final product was the Vallum Vistillum, a magnificent fortification stretching 1056 kilometers along the eponymous river. This line marked the end of the world for Romans - the frontier to an unexplored and unfamiliar region. For this reason, there were no gates along the entire length of the wall and no one was allowed to cross except for the purposes of the Legion, whose frequent patrols in the forests beyond would be Rome's only interaction for centuries with the people across the river. Land that lay between this wall and the old Rhine frontier (limes germanicus) was only marginally less wild, leaving citizens and soldiers a great deal to explore and discover over the next few centuries.
As a piece of architecture, the Vistullan Wall was far from remarkable, aside from its length and height, as its construction abided by reliable and efficient methods for raising stone fortifications. Among these measures, the most crucial was the placement of a concrete river bank to prevent soil erosion at its base. Left unchecked, erosion would slowly undermine its foundations - the primary drawback of building heavy fortifications along a river. In general, Rome's efforts to fortify their borders in the past had left an indelible mark upon the geographic and ecological landscape of Europe, halting the meandering of rivers and segregating the entire continent into distinct ecological zones connected only by birds and windblown seeds. This most recent barrier would ensure the total ecological isolation of Magna Germania.
Only a small gap of ~50 km stood between the southeastern tributary of the Vistullus and the Tyras River but Rome did not yet possess the lands around the Tyras. By 456, the Dacian legions had resolved this deficiency of territory and cleared the lands that lay beyond the Danube, Tisia, and Porata rivers. For the most part, this new territory consisted of the Carpathian mountains and was already quite empty after the great emigration of the Huns. Even so, tens of thousands of foreign Dacians were killed or forced to flee during the decade long annexation of this thin strip of land. A simple brick wall was built along the Tyras and it was finished around the same time as the Vallum Vistillum. Collectively, the frontier along the two rivers became quickly known as the limes venetus after the Latin name for the tribes that lived across the Vistillus.
At its highest, the Vistullan Wall stood ~21 m above the ground so that it towered above the forests and prairies through which it cut like the river along which it was built. Unlike the Vallum Magnum Judaecum (Great Wall of Judaea), this wall did not slope to mitigate the blows of siege missiles, since its purpose was to prevent wanderers from climbing into Roman territory. Indeed, for the tribes outside, the wall posed an effectively impassable barrier - both physically and psychologically. Legends appeared among the locals about the new barrier, covering dozens of different mythological explanations for its existence and purpose.
Legionaries and provincial guards constantly patrolled the length of the Vallum Vistullum. A total of seven legions were relocated from the obsolete Rhine frontier to Greater Germany. Four legions were posted directly along the wall, for a patrol density of about 20 legionaries for each kilometer. Provincial guards were stationed in watchtowers erected every 1.48 km. Each of these towers contained a complement of artillery pieces and housed twenty guards, some trained in the use of the artillery. Every tenth tower had its own horses and stable, allowing communication at the same rate as the curcus vehicularis. Some horses were trained to comfortably ride along the parapets to reach other towers. Although the wall was not crenellated, there was an artillery nest every few meters where a ballista, polybolos, fire-spitter, or scorpio could be deployed. Each nest was heavily protected from outside with its stones set into concrete and could shrug off all but the heaviest contemporary artillery.
Every hundredth tower was large enough to be classified as a castrum (fort), where legionaries had their barracks and officers ran the military operations along the wall. A single fortistrum (fortress) was built at a major confluence of the Fluvius Vistullus. This vast structure became known as Mons Legata (the Legion's Mountain) due to its appearance and size.
As a foundation, rammed earth was packed eight meters high across an area of about a thousand acres, after clearing the forest. This flat surface, which sloped inwards several meters on its edges, served as a base for the fortress itself. The lowest layer of the fortress was a roughly circular ring of concrete that rose from the edges of the raised foundations, stopping at a height of 44.4 m. Space within the ring was filled with clay soils but the concrete rim was ~7 m thick and continued the slope of the ground below. Above this layer, more complex architecture was implemented. A hexagonal wall hugged the shape of the concrete ring one layer down and stood about ~4 m thick as well as ~32 m tall. This layer sloped less severely than the lower levels but was still angled away from the world beyond the river. By contrast, the outer portion of this layer presented a more vertical facade in the direction of Roman land, with a massive square tower servng as the entrance from the path that led up the "mountain" surface from behind.
Instead of a courtyard, the entire space within the hexagonal wall was a wood and stone superstructure consisting of hallways and rooms where an entire legion, 300 archers, 120 artillerymen, and over a hundred servants would reside. This inner structure stood only a meter shorter than the hexagonal wall where the two touched but had varying heights where different buildings were visible, giving the entire surface the appearance of a craggy plateau. Near its center, a domed fort stood ~15 m taller than the surrounding structures, small windows visible from the outside on the surface of its dome.
Although there were open walkways above the hexagonal wall, the ramparts themselves bristled with artillery that protruded from horizontal slits in the face of the wall. There were eighty slits spread across the half of the wall that faced the outside world, each holding a larger version of the polybolos (semi-automatic artillery piece). On the ramparts, six heavy ballistae were constructed on rotating platforms at each vertex of the hexagon. A missile from one of these weapons could destroy enemy siege engines of any size, with an accuracy usually reserved for crossbows.
Everything about the Mons Legata was designed to facilitate maintenance. From its inception, there were no crevices or nooks in the superstructure for animals to nest or water to build. Although the roofs of some buildings that were part of the structure were flat, a network of gutters ferried water to small holes in the outer wall. In general, the legionaries stationed in the fortress had the duties of cleaning and maintaining the entire structure, with the assistance of about a dozen stoneworkers, masons, and engineers. When completed in 505, the fortress was supplied through the forest but the garrison often had to hunt for some of its food. After the highways were expanded into Germany and ports opened on the Baltic Sea, the fortress would be supplied by the nearest forts along the wall, which received supplies by river using lifts that went down to the surface of the water.
Mons Legata remains one of the grandest works of engineering in human history. Although shorter than the Great Pyramid, it covers an area that is almost a hundred times larger. Furthermore, the initial stages of its construction took place hundreds of miles from civilization, without much infrastructure for transporting or gathering necessary materials. Of course, the same can be said of the Vistullan Wall, a structure that required thousands of times more stone and concrete than Mons Legata. Nevertheless, few sights compare with this fortress and for that alone, it has made its own place in history.
Construction of the fortifications along the Vistillus left little to chance in the defense of Rome and were disgustingly expensive. Although timber and brick could be produced from local materials, workers had to be ferried from as far as the Rhine and stone had to come from quarries that could be as distant as 600 kilometers away. Overall, the fortifications on the Vistillus took the Fiscus down 860 million Dn (~9.46 billion USD) and were completed over the reigns of three emperors. Few projects before or since have required the devotion of as many resources as building the defenses of Germany.
Ranging beyond the wall became a frequent activity for the garrisons along the wall - out of boredom as much as duty. By scouting the forests, warning could reach the wall in time to concentrate forces before an enemy arrived. Of course, there were no enemies near the wall as far as the Legion could tell and most interactions with outsiders consisted of intimidating the local tribes. Over the next century, legionaries were often sent as escorts for cartographers, slowly building an accurate picture of what lay beyond the frontier of the known world. The lagoon into which the Vistullus discharges into the Baltic was of particular interest to geologists and military engineers, becoming the object of frequent study throughout history.
Locals living past the Vistillus were known to Rome as the Veneti, although none self-identified with that name. The term came from older geographical records giving imprecise and almost mythological information about this faraway land. Farther south, near the River Tyras, the people were more well-known as the Ruslani, Iazyges, and other Sarmatian tribes, left behind by the great migration of the Huns. Both groups differed noticeably in appearance from Germanic peoples. Venetian culture was marked by the use of iron implements and the cremation of the dead, within simple tribal communities. Although they likely had much of value to trade with Rome had commercial relations been attempted, their only interaction for now would be the burning of their villages and the occasional enslavement of their children. Of all commodities, the Venetians were a useful source of slaves.
Overall, the conquest of Greater Germany left only three active frontiers for Rome to defend: the Limes Venetus, Limes Arabicus, and Limes Aethiopianus. The latter two faced powerful kingdoms but all three were of similar concern in the capital. Guarding the eastern frontier near Persia were nine legions, six outside the great wall and three behind the wall; while only two legions were stationed near the Kingdom of Aksum, since the Aksumites had never shown any belligerence.
The only other border was the limes tripolitanus around Mauretania and Africa Proconsularis. Some caravans came that way from the far south but that direction mostly contained primitive Berber and Mauri tribes. In general, the Desertum Africanum was viewed as of no interest to Rome and had long since been handled with a brick wall along the border. Another region that did not get considered for some time as a frontier was the small strip of land facing Cimbria (Denmark). The neck of the peninsula was barred with an unmanned stone wall with a thick wooden overhang and the peninsula itself was ignored for two centuries.
These limites were the barriers where Roman civilization came to an abrupt halt and the other two-thirds of humanity began. A few hundred merchants left each year for the foreign lands of Persia, India, Ethiopia, or China but few Romans were privy to anything that occured beyond the veil of these frontiers.
Colonizing Magna Germania
Annexing Greater Germany enlarged the empire by one seventh of its previous size, with 954,000 km² of new territory. Perhaps less than four hundred thousand people remained from the original populace, left behind by the great migration and left alive by the legions that had swept across Germany. These Germanic tribes would pose a persistent threat to Roman settlers, raiding their caravans and estates but not daring to attack any coloniae (planned cities built by the state) with their walls and soldiers. With so-called "wild men" everywhere, the wilderness of Germany came to be regarded as a distinct boundary of sorts, referred to with the old term limites germanici (German frontiers). Despite the dangers, Romans were eager to settle these wild lands, pouring out from Italia and Gallia in the thousands every year.
Before colonists could come, the Senate decreed that all land from the Rhine to the Vistula was ager publicus (public land) - a possession of the state - as of 454 CE. Land owned by the public accounts could be given to citizens and veterans or worked by employees of the Senate. Not even the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar had provided as vast an amount of public land as this acquisition. Furthermore, Germany was more useful than the Gallic frontier, emptied as it was of its native populace.
Another law passed in 454 was a promise that every retiring legionary would get a choice: a large plot of rural land in Germany or a house in one of the new coloniae. For the next century, this decree would ensure a stable influx of battle-hardened settlers into Greater Germany, creating a strong local citizenry for maintaining control over the region. However, circumstances could change so the law was set to expire after one century, avoiding a possibly unpopular future decision of having to repeal the law.
Retired soldiers could not only handle freely roaming tribes and uncivilized terrain but they were a reliable population for a new territory that would ensure the loyalty of the entire populace. Some would likely spend their later years as auxiliary guardsmen for the coloniae while others would find employment guarding caravans for merchants. By 485, over three hundred thousand veterans lived in Germany, mingling with an equal number of citizens that had either come on their own initiative or taken jobs working in public mines, smithies, or lumber mills. To motivate colonists, the Senate had offered citizens an escort to anywhere in the new land where they might manage or operate a public facility for the exploitation of natural resources.
Never before did the empire know such a rich source of timber, tin, copper, silver, coal, and lead. Magna Germania was an unspoiled region filled with game for hunting, covered in forests for chopping, and dotted with nodules for mining. At first, only surface veins of ore would be exploited by settlers. As geographic surveys accelerated, Romans would establish pit mines on the surface then eventually shaft mines and drift mines for accessing underground nodules found by agrimensores. Rome brought its full range of technologies and techniques into the new land, albeit at a slow pace as infrastructure grew.
High on the list of priorities for the Senate was the construction of public highways. Unfortunately, it had no clue what locations would eventually need access to a highway, as cities had yet to grow. For this reason, the Senate satisfied itself for now with laying simple roads built by the legions. Unlike the viae publicae in the civilized world, these roads went around rather than through natural obstacles and were rough paths rather than finely crafted stone walkways. Despite this shortcoming, Greater Germany was already poised to be a new industrial heartland of the Roman Empire.
A major downside to the new territory was the difficulty of tilling and planting in the hardy Northern European soil. Furthermore, any farm that a citizen established in Germany had to be prepared on heavily overgrown land, usually meaning a forest. Extensive plowing was required to prepare the soil to accept domestic grains. Fortunately, Roman farmers in Britain had experience with similarly difficult soil and their heavy tools could be brought to bear in colonizing the new territory. Farming remained difficult for several centuries, before the inventions of the horse collar (6th century) and three-field crop rotation (7th century), which came from Italian farmers in their own times.
For political integration of the new territory, the provinces of Germania Superior and Germania Inferior were expanded across the width of Greater Germany while Raetia received the most civilized parts of the old Germania Superior before being turned into a proconsular province in 455. The westernmost part of Germany became the new imperial province of Gothica, as this allowed most of the German legions to be concentrated in one province.
Draco felt compelled to continue Scipio's island project, developing Melita into an urban sprawl and hub of internal commerce. Already by 452, Melita sported a population of 196,000 and a harbor larger than any other in the world. Although Melita had some of the most impressive shopping centers, it had no central forum for public business. To this end, Draco devoted an area south of the Portus Neptunianus to become the Forum Melitum around which a number of key structures would be located.
First, there was the Cathedral of John the Apostle to serve as the religious focal point of the island, allowing the Ecclesia to appoint an archepiskopos (archbishop) in 469 to the growing city. Second, a basilica was created as a public space exclusively for bankers and the heads of provincial banks. After some negotiation, Draco helped found the Collegia Argentarium as the guild for managing the affairs of public and private banking, with the new basilica as the curia (senate) of the guild. All of the major banking guilds and banks were represented in this assembly, allowing more centralized communication between banks. This assembly had the advantage of allowing banks to self-regulate interest rates and for financial news from the Senate to be more easily disseminated to every bank in the empire. As a side effect, Melita became the center of the banking industry, with most provincial guilds establishing headquarters on the island to ensure involvement in the national banking guild.
Lastly, the new forum also featured the Basilica Nautila, a public facility where anyone who had a ship in the main port could sleep and eat for free - effectively, a forum of discussion for ship captains and merchants. There was a wall in the basilica where any merchant could post advertisements for future trade deals, as a way of finding a potential buyer, seller, or some maritime transport, since someone owning a ship could always rent his services to a merchant. If these were not sufficient motivation for seafarers to stay a short time on Melita, then the censitores (census-takers) stationed there to receive complaints from traders and ship captains that could be taken to the Senate for consideration would surely be the final straw.
Scipio had enriched the original population of Melita when he gave them expensive estates in exchange for leaving the island. Most of those 30,000 people sold those estates to come back to a better place, where they could buy land from the state, albeit far larger land than they had previously owned. Unfortunately, it is often not enough to possess a lot of money as their wealth was slowly eroded by taxes and living expenses, since few had the skills to use their wealth to find sustainable employment. Not wishing to end up with a population of deadbeats in the empire's new commercial center, Draco held a ceremony to "appreciate" the original people of Melita, a cover for subsidizing them without offending other new residents. They had some of their wealth restored by this congiarium. Afterward, Draco reduced property taxes in Melita to zero, both to prevent a recurrence and to encourage more immigrants to the province.
A major hospital, the Magna Galenaria Medietas (MGM) was constructed west of the Portus Neptunianus. Structurally similar to the original galenaria in Hierosolyma, this one also had its own water supply inside the roof. Patients could shower or receive heat treatment by spending time inside the resident hypocaust. These were unique features for a hospital at the time but were successful enough to merit imitation. The hospital also linked directly with the massive Cloaca Insulana, a citywide sewage system that brought all waste from the harbor and city center to the far western end of Melita. Such a system required more than 14 km of sewers, still dwarfed by the massive cloaca of Byzantium.
Altogether, Draco spent 90 million Dn throughout his reign on these civil works. Even so, his greatest contribution to the island was to separate it from the proconsular province of Sicilia in 467 and designate it the proconsular province of Melita. Draco himself placed the final stone into the corner of a Palatia Provincia for the governor of the island.
Collapse of the Hunnic Confederation
After migrating for the last 29 years, the Germano-Scythian peoples of the Hunnic Empire had fulfilled their treaty obligation that they "find their home no closer than a thousand miles (1480 km) from the Vistillus." Having no precise concept of a mile, the Huns nonetheless ended up settling in a region about 1530 km from the Roman frontier. Their long migration had slowly taken them from the Vistullus to the Borysthenes then beyond. When one winter in 475-476 nearly resulted in famine, High King Ilek made the decision that they would go no farther, regardless of whether or not the legions were far behind. Fear had driven them far, motivating even many of the lesser tribes to follow, with only some encouragement from remnants of the Hunnic cavalry.
With a weakened army, Ilek's means of keeping his subservient kings in line had become less potent. He had only held on as long as he had with a smaller army by personal intimidation and using the families of tribal leaders as hostages in his entourage. Fortunately for Ilek, his subject nations had armies that were equally, if not more, weakened than his own, further facilitating his hold on power. Upon reaching its destination, the Hunnic Empire consisted of a number of kingdoms and lesser tribes that were once inhabitants of Magna Germania and Scythia. For the most part, these Germanic and Sarmatian cultures had been united as individual kingdoms either before or during their membership in the confederation of the Huns. Some of the major kingdoms of the present confederation were the Kingdom of the Lombards, the Saxon Kingdom, the Anglian Kingdom, the Wesigothic Kingdom, the Ostrogothic Kingdom, the Kingdom of the Salians, the Kingdom of the Alans, the Gepid Kingdom, the Ruxlan Kingdom, the Marcommanic Kingdom, the Frisian Kingdom, the Vandal Kingdom, the Suebian Kingdom, the Kingdom of the Franks, and the Burgundian Kingdom. Beside these larger groups, the Huns held dominion over chiefs of the Chauci, Iazyges, Heruli, Carpi, Cotini, Buri, and other minor tribes.
Altogether, this migrating Hunnic confederation consisted of around 4.5 million Germanic and Sarmatian people, most of whom had never lived within the borders of the Roman Empire. A number of kingdoms brought knowledge of agricultural practices with them, despite the impossibility of sowing fields during the migration. Through Hunnic lords, this understanding got passed to all of the various kingdoms and tribes once they settled into the ~980,000 km² territory that Ilek had claimed. Many people and entire tribes had been lost on the journey, settling the lands in between the Vistillus and this new river that the Huns named after their dead king, Attila. This river provided fertile land for the confederation to inhabit.
Once settled, Ilek tried to establish a political system wherein a Hunnic lord would control a king or chieftain, exacting taxes in the form of produce acquired by the kings from their own lords. A canton (pagis) was the main division of these kingdoms, with most of these groups forming their own village communities or towns. By 486, some of the largest towns consisted of as many as 40,000 people, living in thatch houses on dirt roads radiating out from a wooden lord's manor. These villages and towns had arisen from the bottom going upward, rather than from any concerted effort of the Hunnic lords themselves.
At this time, a number of the kings sent their sons to discreetly discuss their situation. In this way, the kingdoms rose up against the Huns, sadly losing many of their hostage relatives, and forced High King Ilek to meet his fate.
After their victory, the kings met to reach an agreement on a political union of their peoples. There were rumors from the Huns of the Khanlig Chianbei, some empire from the Orient said to stretch for a thousand miles in all directions, and some kings still expressed fears that the Romans would come to take their lands as they had done in Greater Germany. Furthermore, there was agreement that a confederation ensured easy trade and contact between kingdoms, something that could only enrich them all. In the end, fear of greater powers and hope for internal stability convinced the council of kings to elect a single supreme leader that would have the authority to direct their powers as one - a united federation of kingdoms.
The result of this agreement was the Confederation of Anglia, Burgundia, Francia, Lombardia, Suebia, and Sarmatia. Every one of the kingdoms would participate in a national assembly known as the Concile Germanik (German Council) whose primary decision would be the election of a Kaisar Germanik (High King of the Germans). This High King would receive taxes from all of the other kings, held supreme judicial authority, and could levy armies from the other kingdoms. Each kingdom would keep several men as permanent councillors for the presiding Kaisar, usually regional religious authorities or sons of its king. Elected in this first meeting of 488 was Rodirrek, who was King of the Franks.
As feudal lords, the other kings controlled their own lands through their own nobility. This stage in the history of the federation was a transition from tribal leadership, with noble lords descended from lesser chieftains who had pledged themselves to regal overlords - the most powerful chieftains of a shared language and culture. Such kings had religious, judicial, and military authority over their chiefs and people, exercising this power by individual customs that varied from kingdom to kingdom (indeed, the power itself varied considerably from one king to the next).
Common folk were beholden to their tribal leaders, as members of close-knit communities, but this relationship was changing. With community chiefs owing both loyalty and tribute to a king, who himself owed the same to the Kaisar, the commoners would bear the burden of sustaining these political relationships, as their own relationship with their chiefs changed. Soon, they would become indentured workers (or serfs) for their local community leaders - forced to work rather than trying to contribute to their community. In many ways, this situation would result out of the tradition of ascribing possession of the community's land to its local leader, to the point that the farmers or miners working the land saw themselves as exchanging labor for this provision.
Although the Germanic and Sarmatian lords bore a certain enmity toward Rome, they also idolized its empire and practices, in the belief that any sort of imitation would confer benefits on their kingdoms. Centuries spent in contact with Rome had shaped a great deal of the political language and practices of the Germans, noticeable in their words equivalent to king or lord. Of course, with little concept of Latin grammar, Germans tended to mold these words to their local tongues, often adding their own inflection or slowly changing the terms over time as there were little to no written words for reference.
At its inception, the Confederation of Germanic and Sarmatian Kingdoms consisted of 23 kingdoms and over 90 cantons that were independent of these kingdoms. Germanic kingdoms varied in size from the kingdom of the few dozen or so thousand Frisians to the great Kingdom of the Franks, with its 690,000 people. While small in comparison with Rome, these kingdoms were the great powers of their region and did not yet have any local rivals except one another.
For the time being, this Confederation of Germans and Sarmatians was far enough from Rome as not to garner its attention. Posing no threat to Rome by both its small size and great distance, it would be some time before its activities would be noticed.
Saints and iconography
Meanwhile, Rome got swept up into a religious debate.
Draco had a reputation for going to extremes to solve minor problems. A historic instance of this behavior was a debate with a close friend of his in 456, over the question of whether or not prayer before images of holy men such as the Apostles or martyrs was sacrilegious (vitia), a violation of the first commandment to not make any graven images. Unable to privately reach any agreement, Draco decided to settle the debate in a manner befitting his stature. Next afternoon, letters were sent out by the Pontifex Maximus to all major bishops of the Ecclesia Christiana, calling them for the Third Council of Jerusalem.
Discussion on the veneration of holy men through images evolved into an exercise in identifying the status of the venerable Christians such as the Apostles, martyrs, and certain other holy people. Already, many bishops had been recognizing certain martyrs as divine and worthy of veneration by their local community. Indeed, divinity (divinitatis) or closeness to God was the sole attribute that everyone at the council could agree was shared by such Christians. However, the Pontifex Maximus argued that the present method of identifying such individuals was faulty, as likely to venerate a legend as an actual sacred person. For this reason, the bishops agreed that an institution for canonizing a person (recognizing that they were close to God) would be run by the central authority of the Christian community. The Pope would be in charge of appointing clergy to a Divinorum Officium (Office of Saints) that would verify miracles with what passed for rigorous methods at the time.
A person who was recognized as close with God would be identified by the title Divus, for male, or Diva, for female, in identical terminology as the deification of emperors (albeit with very different meaning). For example, Saint Augustine would be referred to as Divus Augustinus and Saint Paul as Divus Paulus. However, despite the status of these people, the council decreed that neither statues nor icons of saints were permitted as fixtures in templa (temples) as only the image of the Lamb of God, the holy spirit, God the Father, and Jesus could be worshiped in a missa (weekly communal act of worship). Exceptions were made for a single image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, or of some saint in a temple that was explicitly dedicated to that person. In any such image, it was deemed unacceptable to place an aureole (halo) on these figures, reserving that symbol for members of the Holy Trinity, as a representation of the logos or divine nature of God.
Nevertheless, prayer to a saint was recognized as a more potent form of worship, wherein a request is made to a saint for him or her to intercede between the faithful and God. With the resolution of these issues to the satisfaction of the clergy and the emperor, this Third Council of Jerusalem was brought to a close on Easter of 457.
Since the pacification of the oriental giant by Constantine, relations between Rome and Sassanid Persia varied from alliances to a lukewarm reception. There had been a century of peace between the two great powers but Persia was just receiving news that Rome was weak from surviving a massive invasion. Indeed, Rome took several decades to gradually replenish the loss of the two legions lost during the Hunnic War and was preoccupied with getting its new territory under control. Now was perhaps Persia's best opportunity to force Rome out of Armenia and Mesopotamia.
Persia invaded the latter of those provinces in 461 CE with a force of 21,000 daylamite heavy infantry accompanied by levies of 190,000 soldiers. With only two of the six legions in the East, Roman Mesopotamia was ill-equipped to defend against the entire Persian Empire without assistance. At the Battle of Nisibis, the sole legion defending the capital was annihilated, fighting till the last legionary had been killed. Over three-quarters of the population was slaughtered and the city itself burned to the ground, in the hopes of dissuading Rome from a prolonged struggle.
Unfortunately for the Sassanids, they failed to understand the defensive strategies of the Roman Empire. Mesopotamia alone was not meant to fight the whole of Persia, only keep the oriental lion licking its wounds long enough for the regional army of seven legions to converge on the invaders. Even if these forces should fail to repel a Persian invasion, Rome had sufficient defenses elsewhere to afford the risk of mobilizing whatever fraction of the Legion was required to hold its territory. Persia would pay dearly for its mistake, even more so for its transgression against the city of Nisibis.
News of the invasion reached the Senate in ten days. Busy as Rome was in Germany, the emperor decided to muster forces from the other parts of the empire. Nisibis had been deep enough into Mesopotamia to alarm him and Rome was not about to give up the valuable provinces without a fight. Two legions from Mauretania, one from Egypt, and two from Hispania joined the eight remaining remaining legions on the limes arabicus. These forces were assembled near the Armenian capital of Noaracagac, in the safer location of Edessa, to intercept the armies of Shah Napur II before he took the provincial capital.
Governor of Syria, Legatus Marcus Symphronius Proelius, had been named Dux Generalissimus over 66,560 legionaries, 38,000 auxiliaries, and 32,500 sagittarii that were assembled to protect his city. Unfortunately, he returned to find that Persia had not delayed in its advance and was already in control of Noaracagac. With no defenders, the city had capitulated without any bloodshed or damage to its defenses, hurting Rome with the old Machiavellian problem of building strong fortresses. Rome faced a dilemma: either they take the city by force at great loss of soldiers or they starve the defenders at complete loss of the residents of the city. Neither consequence was desirable but Rome chose to grab the dilemma by the left horn.
Noaracagac was hit at its weakest point through a concerted strike with onagers, siege rams, and heavy ballistae that had been assembled before the battle. However, the city walls came from the finest Roman engineering and would not fall even under such a heavy barrage. Persians rained missiles down upon the advancing siege engines, burning them to cinders before serious damage could be done to the walls. As these weapons of the main Roman force were destroyed, a lone battering ram escorted by two legions reached the gates on the opposite end of the city, breaking on through to the other side with the Roman soldiers. With the city gates open, the legionaries overran the Persian defenders and regained control of the Armenian capital.
Rome's ploy had worked beautifully. Most of her forces were concentrated on one end of the city, giving time for the Persians to move their own weapons and troops to that side. With most of the defenders out of the way, one of the three rams was able to reach the city gates with its small escort. Inside the city streets and on the walls, the legionaries proved their great effectiveness when an enemy was forced to fight them head on without support. A column of legionaries moving through a city could advance with brutal efficiency, as men switched out from the unambiguous front line so that none would tire.
About three legions worth of legionaries as well as tens of thousands of regular troops were lost in the battle but the reward was the destruction of the main body of the Persian military. While four legions went to secure Mesopotamia, the other nine advanced into Persia to defeat the auxiliary forces of the Shah, who had fled from Noaracagac, and to pillage its riches. In gold, silver, and slaves, more than 290 million denarii were procured by the Legion, in addition to whatever filled the pockets of the troops. The majority of this had been taken after the capture of Ctesiphon, the capital of the Sassanid Kingdom.
Sadly for Persia, its fate seemed to be to build up a treasury only to have it stolen by the Romans every century or two. Each time Rome defeated the oriental lion she left it impoverished, forcing Persia to rebuild its armies and its wealth on the backs of its populace and from the resources of its land. Not long ago, Agricola had written a commentary on his father's actions in invading Persia for wealth. He lamented the dishonorable nature of deliberately invading a kingdom, such as Persia, simply to profit off its wealth, forgiving his father only because of the difficult economic times that were facing his Rome. This time, at least, the invasion of Persia was not unprovoked, although the harrowing of its treasury was perhaps no less excessive than usual.
As a concession to Rome, the Persian Shah was forced to crack down upon Manichaeans, which had formed a sizable majority in some parts of Persia. When they did not pursue this requirement with any enthusiasm, three legions were sent to punish Persia, sacking the capital of Ctesiphon for the second time. Afterward, the Shah put in place of the old ruler went ahead with severe persecutions of both Manichaeans and non-trinitarian Christians, who had distanced themselves from Roman Christianity at the insistence of earlier Persian rulers.
Around 907 talents (29,295 kg) of gold were forged into libralea (328.9 gram gold bars) for storage in the aerarium stabulum (public treasury) of Byzantium while the rest of the Persian treasury funded colonization of Magna Germania. Although this did not replenish the treasury to the extent that Faustilon had accomplished when acquiring Nubian gold, Draco had created a suitable buffer for government spending, given how much was required for mere maintenance of Rome's massive empire.
This most recent defeat of Persia reasserted the geopolitical fact of Roman dominance over her neighbors. The Sassanids had mustered the largest army they could for their attack and yet Rome had repelled them from her land (albeit at the price of around ~700,000 civilian casualties and the manpower of three legions). Draco made sure that his delegates brought this victory up with the King of Aksum and Rome's Indian trading partners. The empire would have all its neighboring states recognizing that no military had the strength to force Rome to relinquish her territory.
Statistics for the Roman Empire of 485 AD
Population: 95 million (34.2% of humans)
Area: 8,067,000 km²
GDP: 7.7 billion denarii (~$85 billion US)
Treasury: 77 million denarii (~$847 million US)
Government revenue: 428 million denarii (~$4.71 billion US), 5.55% of GDP
Military spending: 216 million denarii (50.4% of revenue or 2.81% of GDP)
Military size: 145,600 legionaries (28 legions), 268,000 auxiliaries and 10,000 praetorian guards
Legislature: 600 senators
Christianity: 94% of citizens
By 452, the Conglomerate enclosed ~276 member cities and over 1 million km² of territory, with all 17 million Mayans living in these cities. Presently, there were several factors uniting the Maya. First, their leader had a charisma that both inspired them and helped them understand his vision for their civilization. Second, every Maya desired access to technologies that were being enjoyed by the former city of Ox Te' Tuun (now known as Mayapan). It was not hard for people to understand the advantages of more plentiful running water, a liquid stone building material, a mill that ran without animals or men, or a machine that harvested maize without effort. Only people living within the Conglomerate understood how these were made and the people of Mayapan were the best at their use and construction. Third, the Maya had never experienced the security they had in their union, with the recent pledge to the king in 452 marking the time he allowed other cities to maintain armories for their people to arm themselves at a moment's notice. When they were stocked, every city had the capacity to mobilize its army in under an hour. This security is an evolution of the original motivation of fear for uniting with Mayapan in the first place.
Lastly, the Maya had a taste of collaboration and were developing a sense that they were one people. Within a few decades, the notion of separate Maya city-states would be both strange and aversive to the people. Indeed, the Maya had begun to develop a sense of racial entitlement and a stronger sense of racial identity. Together, they helped the Maya to look down on other cultures that wallowed in their more primitive villages and farms. Combined with the divine status of Mayapan himself, their power led the Maya to believe that the gods favored their people and that they were a rightful class of rulers.
For his part, Mayapan did not share these sentiments although he both encouraged them for their effect on stability and saw that the price would be the impossibility of eventually integrating non-Maya peoples into his kingdom. His comrades would never treat other groups the same as they treated each other - as new a concept as their racial collaboration still was. Trading with foreigners continuously reinforced this notion in the people, as they saw how little other nations had and how weak they were.
With this in mind, Mayapan settled on a policy of racial segregation on a national scale for mitigating racial conflict and for ensuring greater internal stability. Events in Teotihuacan when he tried to migrate a few thousand Maya to the city all too clearly showed him the risks of Maya and non-Maya living in the same city. Unfortunately, Teotihuacan was so far outside the rest of his territory that he could not afford the risk of sending the other inhabitants to other cities, for they would surely raise support for a recapture of Teotihuacan. Devoting a year to construct an earthenworks wall around Teotihuacan, Mayapan only then relented by sending the remaining 35,000 non-Maya residents elsewhere.
As predicted, other cities began to attack Teotihuacan only two years later. With 40,000 men trained for military service in the city by this time, defending it from these attacks posed no challenge to the Conglomerate. Indeed, by this time, there were well over 150,000 Maya in Teotihuacan as its infrastructure could support more people than the more advanced Maya cities. From this time, Mayapan prioritized expanding his kingdom to reach its new capital. Fortunately, he would succeed before he died.
Subjugating new cities
Some cities went peacefully while others fought to the last man. The Hñähñú fought until they lost their final city in 455 but the Ne'ivi Davi surrendered after only a year. As Mayapan was deploying about 570,000 soldiers at the time, there was no risk of defeat, even though he usually spread his strength throughout the region. No other city was accustomed to the new breed of warfare practiced by the Maya. No longer was battle a ceremonial affair for the capture of ritual sacrifices - for the Maya, it was a matter of statecraft and economic growth, an expansionist attitude toward war unseen in this part of the world.
However, the Maya religion demanded ritual sacrifices on a regular basis and Mayapan could not deny it this resource. In 457, he decreed that any cities with the status of subject-nation would be forced to regularly send one person to Teotihuacan but that only the Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon would be permitted to perform human sacrifices, as a reflection of the unity of the Maya who used to hold human sacrifices in all of their cities. Without the regular culling of Maya cities, the population was growing rapidly, in conjunction with the great leaps forward in agriculture and the religious piety that Mayapan had attached to the bearing of children, imploring every Maya city he visited that the gods asked that their people multiply.
Mayapan did not leave this world without securing more specific methods for governing the non-Maya cities. He decreed that each city would pay a tax in the form of food that would be transported to the capital and to the Maya homeland. For this reason, the mechanical reaper was one of the only technologies to which non-Maya were given access. They were also forced to follow Maya techniques of enclosed farming and crop rotation, but these would take almost a century to implement in their lands.
Moving the capital of his kingdom to a far away land that did not share cultural roots may seem an odd decision but Mayapan had good reason to move some of the people in his home city to this new location. First, the region around Teotihuacan would be in greater need of close supervision once conquered and centering his kingdom away from his other cities would ensure future expansion in its direction. Conversely, the Maya cities were secure holdings for the Conglomerate and could generally be given the rights of self-government, under regulation from the capital. There was little need to keep the majority of the bureaucracy in that region when each city simply operated through a bureaucracy of its own.
More important than these reasons, Teotihuacan was the largest and most well-situated city in the region. It was difficult to capture but able to sustain productive terraced agriculture in the surrounding hills and jungles. Lastly, there would be no better way for a king to maintain control over such a powerful city as Teotihuacan than by moving there as his home.
The many other technologies invented by Mayapan were closely guarded by the Maya, seeing use exclusively in their homeland. Indeed, a great many technologies and techniques came from the mind of the genius that was Mayapan.
Adding to those advantages listed earlier, the Maya applied toothpaste regularly with a rag, wrote on fig paper, wore smelted copper as jewelry, carried goods on wheeled carts, and were dazzled by simple black powder fireworks. Many of these inventions were the product of Mayapan's growing understanding of plants and minerals. He would leave behind a thorough way to classify both types of phenomena by observable properties - e.g. colour, grain size, fracture lines, etc. for rocks. For using this system most effectively, Mayapan began the practice of combining plant extracts and mineral powders in varying proportions then recording the properties of the mixtures. Black powder and cement were only two products of such experimentation.
His knowledge would be passed down to his contemporaries and gradually expanded over time. During his life, his discoveries were the driving force for the growth of Maya civilization. In preparation for his passing, Mayapan founded an institution, built in isolation within core Maya territory, devoted to continuing his legacy of understanding nature and discovering new materials. The Temple of the Mind housed an order composed of those men whom Mayapan considered of a similarly inquisitive nature as himself. Their order would receive food and labor from the Kuhul Ajaw so that they might have time to expand on the work of the first great king of the conglomerate. Each member of the order new the others as Wisdom, in the style of a title, with the leader dignified as Highest Wisdom. Although dependent on the king for sustenance, the Temple of the Mind was to be completely self-directed, electing new members on its own and sending its senior members as advisors to the ajaw, only the Highest Wisdom receiving the honor of advising the Kuhul Ajaw himself. These men were the foremost experts on what the Maya knew about the world - effectively, the sole philosophers of nature in the entire kingdom. This order would instigate many of the future discoveries of the conglomerate.
Once his kingdom spanned the two shores of the land, there was abundant access to freshwater rivers. Starting in 453, ceramic and wooden aqueducts were constructed from these sources of freshwater to nourish Maya cities. At first, their water was only for public drinking fountains but within five years, enough water was flowing north that Mayapan could divert some to the farms. Terraced farms were prepared to take better advantage of this irrigation. A simple mechanism for redirecting water flow when a terrace went into the fallow part of the crop cycle allowed more efficient use of available water.
One final contribution that Mayapan had for his people was his emphasis on the bow and arrow for combat. Although bows were a common tool for hunting, it saw little use in warfare, as ritualistic combat disdained its use. Eschewer of traditions that he was, Mayapan took steps toward popularizing its military use. For one thing, he decreed that as part of military exercises, every Maya city would hold archery competitions every twenty days and some percentile of the best would be granted fine wooden bows as an additional weapon in battle. Furthermore, artisans were ordered to produce bows in large quantities, both increasing supply and ensuring more widespread skill at manufacturing bows and arrows.
Unfortunately, these projects would not take off until after Mayapan's death. In 457, the first ajaw (king) of all the Maya died in his palace in Teotihuacan, bequeathing his kingdom to whichever of his sons was elected by the Maya nobility. His eldest and most experienced son, Chan'ka Mayapan, was their choice.
Mayapan's success as an experimenter is owed to the gift of a good memory and a sense for dissonance. From the latter, Mayapan developed an almost palpable reaction of discomfort when faced with contradictions in speech. This habit would allow him to develop the first Maya school of logic, to a degree comparable with what Aristotle developed for the Greeks.
The basis of this logic was his notion of "words blossoming out of words", a process of inferring one sentence from another by reference to the meaning of every component term of the given phrase. Phrases deduced by this method were considered as being "held within the phrase" from which they were deduced, i.e. their truth necessarily follows from the truth of the original sentence. Strangely, Mayapan's treatises on logic do not draw on any sort of principle of contradiction, relying instead on a principle of identity for making deductions. These principles are functionally the same but it is strange that Mayapan thought in terms of drawing out the meaning of a statement rather than focusing on identifying those sentences whose logical opposite contradicts with the given statement. As a result, he gives little focus to logical fallacies.
Mayapan compared his inference method with the traditional Maya philosophy that the future comes out of the past in a process that never stops. This comparison of inference with the constant "becoming" of the world led Mayapan to a primitive etiology, since Mayapan saw words as ultimately referring to things in nature and saw inference as a reflection of the transforming of one natural thing into another. In this sense, his logic relied on the belief in natural kinds as the subjects of logical speech and gave rise to the Maya understanding of causation in nature.
As a supplement to his logic, Mayapan outlined a primitive method for experimentation in a treatise written later in his life. This text would serve as a guide to the expert on nature in the royal court of the Conglomerate, as this expert was expected to emulate the experimental sides of Mayapan's personality as closely as possible. The treatise was one of the many codices that he left at the palace in Teotihuacan, with a few other copies only to be found in palaces of the lesser ajaw.
As a primitive scientific method, Mayapan suggested a clear set of prescriptions for studying a new phenomenon:
- Collect facts about the phenomenon using your senses.
- Collect facts about how the phenomenon interacts with other well-understood phenomena.
- Tabulate these facts in order of the scales at which they are observables.
- Compare this table with other similar phenomena that are already understood.
Although direct experience with a new material or natural object was taken as primary to this method, Mayapan also invented a small set of tools for comparing such a thing with known materials. Starting with his early experiments with rocks, Mayapan had a jar whose mouth he cut to a fine edge then filled to the brim with water. He would compare the water forced out of the jar by two objects with how they compared on a balance scale of his own invention. By this means, he ordered different materials by how "compact" (dense) they were. The methodology and tools that Mayapan passed down to his successors would be useful for identifying different ores, which would be a major benefit for future metallurgy.
Grand Maya Council
During his life, Mayapan worked to found a lasting dynasty for the governing of the Maya Conglomerate. Although he needed to leave clear, unambiguous rules for succession, he also could not trust that an eldest son or daughter would be fit to rule. To improve the chances of good government, Mayapan instituted a kind of hereditary meritocracy for his position.
In 451, toward this goal, he founded the Grand Maya Council as a political group, comprised of the ajaw of all Maya cities, that would assemble on the death of a Kuhul Ajaw. In their place of assembly was a stone monument carved with questions that were to be asked about each of a dead king's sons, questions that would force the council to explicitly consider each of the traits of each of those sons and compare them with one another. Most of them would have a long political record to which the council could refer for these traits but an interview before the council would also be held. Before his death, a king was not permitted to officially support any of his children to replace him, although a king was allowed to resign so that one of his children would begin to reign earlier. When a dead king's sons had been compared on all specified points, the one seen to be most fit to rule the conglomerate of Maya cities would be decided by majority agreement of the council (albeit not through one poll).
The political lives of a king's sons either involved running their own farming estates in the countryside or participating in the administration of a city, but only under the lord of that city. To ensure a large palette, a reigning king was encouraged to take many wives and father as many children as possible. Past a certain age, these sons would not be permitted inside Teotihuacan, both to prevent an attempted coup and to prevent them from developing a sense of entitlement. In effect, the sons of a king would not be his own and they would be placed in positions that would not foster a view that they deserved the title. However, they would receive exceptional training throughout their lives by an appointed caretaker, whose duties were to prevent harm from befalling his charge and to instill the qualities and knowledge required for leadership. This procedure would work or fail depending on the son and on the caretaker, but with later kings fathering an average of forty sons, there was usually one worthy successor in each generation of the royal family.
Siblings were considered unfit to rule once the ritual of passing had been performed on one of the sons in a generation. Only his own children would be eligible to be a future king. As an exception, Mayapan taught a unique ritual that would allow a brother to be given power, but the ritual required the extinction of the original king's bloodline. In principle, this ritual would only be used when a reigning king could not bear children and so there would be no children to sacrifice on his death. Since fertility was one quality that Mayapan demanded, every attempt was made to preclude the need for this ritual.
Another less bloody ritual was taught to the people for the succession of the lords of cities. There were no rules set for how the individual cities would be governed or pass on their government except that every new ruler had to be subjected to a ritual that would recognize him as ajaw of his or her city. Mayapan emphasized that after a lawful performance of the ritual, a new ajaw would be similarly sacrosanct as the Kuhul Ajaw, forbidding anyone, even the federal king, from harming that leader. It is likely that this was intended to prevent the abuse of the Grand Maya Council by a reigning Kuhul Ajaw.
Finally, Mayapan demanded that any civil servants for the Kuhul Ajaw be subjected to rigorous scrutiny before being given any position in his court. This examination was to be supervised by the king himself and was to happen in droves every three years, when the literate of Teotihuacan would come to the palace to test their abilities. For the examination, applicants would simply be given a small sheet of paper and a writing utensil, with the instruction to mark down a number corresponding to their answer. In principle, the majority of questions were political, financial and moral scenarios devised by Mayapan himself, the choice of how to proceed being asked of the applicants. Questions and options were administered orally several time before proceeding from one question to the next one. Mayapan attached religious significance to these examinations, as coming from his own hand. The responses that he deemed "most reflecting of a right mind" were kept in the private chambers of the king for his personal use in evaluating applicants by writing a number reflecting how many of their answers were deemed appropriate (nothing else could be written on applicants' papers so as to avoid direct indication of the answers). Highest scoring individuals would be accepted up to whatever quota had to be filled for that cycle. These examinations would serve the Conglomerate well for a few centuries.
All of these principles for choosing successors were laid down as religious rules by Mayapan, who presented them to his people as divine commandments. Even Mayapan's closest compatriots shared the national belief that he was a prophet or oracle for the gods. As with most of his decrees, these rules were without exception accepted as from a divine source. His great works were more proof than any contemporary could ever need to be convinced of his oracular powers.
A Kuhul Ajaw was to wield absolute power over the cities of the Maya. He could establish new laws or taxes and raise armies of the common people whenever he saw fit. His person was also to be regarded as divine from the moment the ritual of passing (a religious ritual of coronation) was completed using the body of the previous king. As a divine ruler, harm could not come to the king. Obviously this was not true in a literal sense, but rather anyone who attempted to harm the Kuhul Ajaw would become a ritual sacrifice. Anyone who somehow killed a federal king would be drowned in his own blood.
In addition to these religious laws of succession, Mayapan established the Twenty Laws of Conglomeration that would serve as an inviolable constitution for the Maya Conglomerate. These sacred laws determined the basic relationship between the Kuhul Ajaw and the lesser ajaw as well as the capital, Teotihuacan, and the other cities. Although they were not vague on any regulations that they prescribed, they also avoided specifying how certain functions of government would be executed, allowing a great deal of variation and improvement over time, despite the solidification of general political structures.
For example, one of the most sacred of its laws was that the ajaw were not to be prevented from assembling when they saw fit and that decisions reached by more than two-thirds of them would be more authoritative than decisions of a Kuhul Ajaw, at least, on matters of creating new laws and administering the populace, since lesser ajaw had little military authority.
There was no standing army to defend the conglomerate. After 452, major cities had their own armories for storing weapons which would be retrieved if either the Kuhul Ajaw called for soldiers or the city came under attack. Every male who was fit enough for strenuous exercise would join citywide military training every five days. No Maya cities were excepted from this obligation and every city had an adequate store of weapons with which to train. People living outside the urban centers as farmers were the only Maya people excluded from military exercises. At any given time, over 750,000 men were ready to serve as soldiers.
At contemporary levels of activity, Chan'ka had required a total of about 320,000 soldiers for his continuation of his father's expansion. Mayapan had arranged the military into units or battalions of 2000 men each. Everyone within a battalion came from the same city but one battalion might differ from another in its composition. Archers were only equipped according to their abilities, as determined by the regular competitions. Nevertheless, Mayapan instructed his bureaucrats to aim for somewhere close to 1000 archers per battalion. Aside from weaponry, any one soldier was indistinguishable from another in his equipment. Under Mayapan, soldiers did not wear much armor but the king had some designs that would see future applications.
Each battalion was led by a B'ate (elite warrior) who had distinguished himself during training. Their equipment stood apart from the rest of their battalion but remained practical for melee combat. Multiple battalions would be placed under the command of a Kalomte (warlord) who would make all of the strategic decisions. With none of their enemies accustomed to straight warfare, there was little need for minute tactical changes by the B'ate and the system of leadership was not optimized for such decisions. The standard armament of a soldier was a 0.68 meter short sword composed of wood with an obsidian edge. These stones were sharpened to the point of easily decapitating a man in one swing. Every soldier also carried an array of obsidian knives, with some being well-enough trained to throw them in combat. Those who were designated as archers would carry all of the same equipment except with the addition of a composite bow designed by Mayapan. Obviously, this would mean that archers were weighted down more than regular soldiers but this was not a flaw for the kind of battles that the Maya fought. Archers were meant to serve functionally as artillery, standing in place to fire at the enemy from range. There was little need for mobility since the enemy was rarely able to approach their firing positions.
Composite bows of the Maya were complex weapons invented in 446. A single one took anywhere from days to months of drying to finish but was worth the effort. These bows were more portable and delivered more power than the wooden self bows used by contemporaries. However, on top of difficult manufacturing, they needed to be stored in dry conditions, which was not always easy in the jungles of the Maya homeland. Nevertheless, their shorter lifetimes were hardly a problem for the Maya, since their military did not require funding, only enough artisans in the kingdom to supply its weapons.
One of the most persistent foes of the Maya was the Be'ena'a (Zapotec civilization). Cities of the Zapotec culture were some of the more organized in the region and they stood directly in between the Maya cities and the capital of Teotihuacan. They were simply ignored in the taking of that mighty city but now they would have to be conquered to ensure stable access to the capital.
Chan'ka fought the Zapotec from 457 to 462 as one of the first major tasks during his reign. As any other enemy, the Zapotec did not pose a serious threat in battle. Most were cut down by arrows before any engagement and the rest were easily mopped up by Mayan infantry but there were many of them and they often did not give the convenience of fighting in open battle. While they did not know enough to employ non-ritualistic battle tactics, they knew to avoid direct confrontation whenever possible. For the most part, the result of this attitude was to waste the time of Maya warlords as they waited for more optimal conditions to fight.
Less troublesome battles were fought with the Olmec and Nahua cultures but the former were weak agrarian societies, merely the remnants of a once powerful civilization, and the latter were not yet settled into their territories. By 485, Chan'ka had taken most of the land up to Teotihuacan, allowing roads to be safely constructed to connect the capital with other Maya cities.
|Reign of Scipio:|
1184 (431)-1205 (452)
|Reign of Draco:|
1205 (452)-1238 (485)
1238 (485)-1290 (537)