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Culture (Latin: Cultura) denotes a state of personal cultivation, reaching out to a universal capacity for humanity. This it derives from its latin root. However, in the last few centuries, cultura has come to signify any set of shared expressions of experience by creative means that distinguishes a society, organization or country. On a global scale, the latter comes to mean something more universal human, a quality of Humanitas. Whichever definition is considered, culture always regards improvement of oneself in some way; though, what exactly is the proper way to improve remains a point of contention.
Humanity's meager separation into a small number of large nations rather than a large number of small ones has produced grand cultures. Roman culture, for example, is metaphorically described as a purple cloth covering lumps of other societies that were assimilated as Romans have been receptive to the influences of conquered cultures. At the same time, no other culture has ever been more influential than that of the Romans. This is strongly reflected in the second definition of culture, a notion which the Romans are especially fond of. They operate under the belief that Culture is working towards an ultimate end and that their culture is a necessary means to that end. Interestingly, this egocentric belief does not blind the Romans to the benefits in various practices of other cultures. For most of their history, Rome has seen all the best aspects of the cultures that it has encountered and then it has Romanized them. This process of assimilation and modification has characterized the Empire's cultural development for the last two and half thousand years.
However, not everyone thinks of foreign cultures in the same way as the Romans do. Many, such as the Japanese, view the incursions of other cultures into their own as an attack on their society. To counteract this they encourage cultural homogeneity and keep out foreign influences. Others, the Columbians for instance, enforce the idea of retaining traditional values, ones which have been held for centuries before the arrival of foreigners into their land. In any case, all attempts at forced cultural isolation have failed, either because the outside influences proved too strong or their own people desired change too greatly. Nevertheless, just as Rome has prospered by its inclusion of foreign traditions, these nations have usually benefited rather than faltered when they have accepted cultural values other than their own.
Religion in the Superpowers has both similarities and differences to religion OTL. The main difference is the importance which most people place in religion, even in the modern ATL setting. In OTL about 15% of the world's population either rejects or does not take part in religious practices, in this timeline however that number is only about 2% or so. An even smaller percentage, hardly even 1%, would describe themselves as atheists (or something like it). Out of a world population of 7.9 billion people that's less than 80 million people. As well, religious belief is more highly concentrated amongst the developed countries, like Rome, Mongolia or Japan, and less so within the UCC or Danemarc.
Major World Religions are:
The two dominant religions are Christianity, in particular Roman Christianity, which has over 2.3 billion followers, and Buddhism, which has around 2.2 billion. The largest religion after those is the belief in the Mayan God Kinich Ahau, a religion which has about 1.1 billion followers. After that are Shinto and Hinduism which have 380 and 510 million adherents respectively. Next is the veneration of the Inca Pantheon, which about 300 million people ascribe to. The next major religion is Islam with 170 million followers and then Judaism with only about 80 million. As well shamanistic or animist beliefs are extremely prevalent, and together are followed by around 520 million people. There is no specific animist belief that predominates, as each one is largely unique on its own. However, the UCC does have a unique federal religious system that comprises about 40-60 million believers, though due to the ambiguity, this number could even be much higher.
Followers of the various monotheistic religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, have for the past hundred years especially, felt a sense of comradery in face of the rest of the world. Leaders of all four monotheistic religions have at some time in the past met together and professed that they worship the same God, in fact, the Scriptures of all four actually state in some way that these differing religions worship a God that is one and the same. In the Qur'an for instance it states of Christians and Jews "Our God and your God are one and we submit to him.", and recently in 1934, Ottoman Imams declared their thanks to the Mayans by extending this message to Ahau as well. In the writings of the Christians and the Jews there are a great many messages that extend their "Paradise" even to the non-believers. Whilst Jews and Christians have coexisted for millennia in the Roman Empire, in 1815 when Caesar, and Pope, Alexander XIV signed the treaty of friendship with the Mayans, he told their King in Nahuatl that, "For us who worship the same God, under his same sun, may we live in an unending peace". Taking monotheism as a sign of worshipping "God" rather than Gods or Spirits, about 4 billion people, more than half of the world's population, profess a belief in God.
Polytheism and Spritualist or Animist beliefs are actually the least prevalent form of belief. Most Buddhists, who require no deities as part of their beliefs, still profess a belief in a creator God or Gods. In one of the only surveys of its kind in the Mongol Empire, it was discovered that 59% of the population believe in "A creator God or Gods". No other survey has collected more specific values than that, and so the actual number of monotheists and polytheists is still impossible to determine. Nevertheless, looking at the beliefs in the religions themselves, there are about 1.7 billion polytheists in the world, and then of course 2.2 billion people who can either be classified as non-deists or unknowns.
Another point of interest is the relationship between religion and the state. There are three countries, the Khmer, Danes and Zulus, where there is an almost complete separation of Church and State. Then there are the Columbians, where most of their lifestyle is centered around their spiritual beliefs, but the government is completely separate from this, and all aspects of the Native Columbian religions are left up to the medicine men and shamans of the villages and tribes that are part of the Union. Meanwhile, the Mongol World Empire follows tenets from numerous religions and schools of thought, including Chinese Folk religions, Confucianism and Buddhism. Although the government is not actively guided by any religious figures, it is heavily influenced by the teachings of those ideologies.
Finally, the Roman, Mayan, Inca and Japanese Empires are all examples of slight and extreme theocracies. On the far end are the Inca and Japanese, where the Emperor and Sapa Inca are not just heads of the state religion, but gods in their own right. On the other end of the spectrum, the Roman Emperor and Mayan King merely consider themselves to be the representatives of God on Earth, though both proclaim that they rule by his divine right. In the cases of the Mayans, Romans and Japanese, religion surprisingly plays a small but important role in the actual proceedings of the government. In Tawatinsuyu however, the state religion dictates many aspects of the government and society, and the distinction between Church and State blurs.
Like any world, sports and fair competition are a huge part of the cultures in Superpowers. Although the more centralized and large nature of countries has made there a smaller number of "major sports", the variety of sports in the world is equally as large "there" as it is "here". Partly as a natural process, and partly to distinguish themselves, most countries have at least one or two National Sports which are most popular there. In the cases of these sports the resident governments usually have organized some kind of national, sometimes even international competition to encourage the popularity of the sport and the spread of their own culture. This has led to several countries, usually ones which are politically close, to share certain sports and often compete against each other in friendly, but heated, competition.
A prime example of this is the Mayan sport Ullamaliztli, played in year-round Grand Ullamaliztli Competition in the Mayan Conglomerate. This event lasts from the Spring Equinox to the Winter Solstice and usually features more than 3,000 individual matches in a tournament style leading to the Finals in Teotihuacan on December 21. The Roman city of Halorium has the only foreign team that takes part in the tournament, and amazingly, they rank as one of the top teams in the sports. The Romans have also adopted Ullamaliztli into their own sport called Ullapila, played yearly over the course of December, January and February in the popular Nike Tournament. Non-official Ullamaliztli and Ullapila tournaments between Mayan and Roman organizations are very common, and the sports have become a major point of cultural connection between the two countries, a relationship which has emerged from the so-called Culture War of the mid-1900's.
The Romans themselves are huge on sports, and generally consider themselves to have no national sport other than sport itself. For instance, every five years (Lustrum) a championship called the Ludi Capitolini are held in and around a major city. This is perhaps one of the most anticipated and watched sporting events in the world, with an estimated 4.5 billion viewers at home and in person over the course of each Games.
The third most popular Roman sporting event is, as was just mentioned, the Bellatoria Cup which is held from July to September. Only Roman sports teams, each representing a different city, take part in this tournament, giving it the distinction of being a purely Roman sport. Bellatoria itself developed out of leisure games played by soldiers during the Germanic Campaign of the 400's CE. In its modern form it is played between teams of 24 players (a Duodecurion) that each have a 25th player who acts as the legatus. The goal of the sport is to take the opponent's Legatus over the halfway line to score points every 15 seconds of control. Every ten minutes any destroyed vase is replaced so there is a small interval when points can be gained. Minor injuries like scraps and bruises are common, but unlike Ullamaliztli, it is extremely rare that someone is killed.
In Asian countries, in particular Japan and Mongolia, recreational and professional sports are divided into Martial Arts and non-martial arts. Of the professional fighting sports, competitions of Sumo (相撲) and Kendo (剣道) are only popular in Japan and the various styles of Wushu (武術) are exclusive to the Mongol Empire. No sport brings the continent together though like Cuju (蹴鞠). A sport very similar to OTL Football/Soccer, Cuju is the most widely played international sport in the world, with over 3 billion playing it recreationally or professionally worldwide. Every four years, since the end of the Great War, the Mongols have hosted the International Cuju Cup and allowed other nations to join in, depending on their current political situation. Several Japanese teams usually take part in this tournament, and when the situation doesn't allow them to, such as during the Global War, the Japanese have hosted their own tournament themselves. As well, the Roman city of Hastinaporum has its own Cuju team which frequently takes part in the tournament, and the Mayans have their own national team which they send over as well.
Other minor sports are also quite popular within their respective countries, but Rome takes the cake for having the highest number. In the Greek and Italian Provinces, as well as certain colonies, the sport of Harpastum is very popular. Kind of like a reverse Rugby, the goal of the game is to keep the ball on "your" side of the central line, and when the opponent takes it over the line, they score points. This goes back and forth like this and whoever reaches 100 points (1 point=10 seconds) first wins. The biyearly Athenian Games (which aren't always in Athens) are the primary Harpastum tournament. For leisure, the "Golf-life" game of Paganica is very popular in Roman Europe, especially Italy. The Chinese, and by consequence the Mongols, also independently developed their own game similar to Golf, called Chuiwan (捶丸), which is still very popular amongst the rich. Both have their own respective tournaments for professional players of the games.
For every civilization there is a unique flavor, if you will, of cuisine that its people enjoy and flaunt to the rest of the world. For many nations, their history has determined their diets and these choices of food have shaped their culture up to the present day.
The Chinese, and therefore the Mongols, for instance have always had access to rich agricultural lands, making agriculture especially central to their cuisine and animal products are rarely consumed. Although the Mongols did bring in a greater popularity for chicken, eggs and horse meat, the staple of Eastern cooking will always be green vegetables and, most importantly, rice. Nearly 52% of all rice is produced in the Mongol Empire, and nearly all of that rice stays in the country itself and is enjoyed by the populace. There are two notable aspects of Mongolian cuisine. The first is that food is traditionally served in numerous bite-sized pieces, which are expected to be eaten just as they are. To eat a utensil known as zhu (箸) is used, and has been used for millennia to pick up these pieces of food. Secondly, Mongolian/Chinese food is characterized by its mixing of opposites, say hot and cold, or mild and spicy into one meal.