Gazyra - Ancient and Proud Feb 28, 2019 22:33:15 GMT
Post by WildlingKing on Feb 28, 2019 22:33:15 GMT
Gazyra – Ancient and Proud
Gazyra is often regarded as the birthplace of civilization, and for good reason. Men have lived and worked the land there for thousands of years, and signs of written word and complex culture can be traced back as far as 5000 BFK. In those times Gazyra would not have been one unified culture or kingdom though, but rather a collection of dozens, each with their own beliefs and traditions. Very little is known of these early Gazyrans and their way of life, but it could at least be said that by making this land their home they laid the foundation for a great civilization.
By 3000 BFK Gazyra had formed into three kingdoms, the River Kingdom, the Lake Kingdom, and the Mountain Kingdom. These kingdoms had their occasional quarrels, but they also worked in cooperation. River Kingdom was the bread basket of the land, Mountain Kingdom toiled copper, silver and gold from the mines of Basar Mountains, and the Lake Kingdom with their military prowess acted as an intermediary between them. It was a delicate balance of power – if one king were to step out of line, the other two would quickly team up against him. Over time this close relationship between the kingdoms created a sense of shared culture, as well as combined their languages into one. Many stories originating from this era are still told in the Gazyran folklore, and some few writings, statues, tombs and temples remain as well. However, mostly it is seen as a lesser era before Gazyran’s true rise to glory as a unified kingdom.
The unification of Gazyra happened during the 26th century BFK, as a result of a long series of developments starting from the religious unification of 2607 BFK. That year hundreds of priests from all Three Kingdoms assembled to Qasar, back then a minor city at the border of the Lake Kingdom and River Kingdom. In negotiations and debates that lasted for several months the canon of Gazyran religion was determined, and the Nine Cults and their High Priests were established. The influence of the Nine Cults quickly spread throughout the Three Kingdoms, as the priests begun to preach their new gospel. The next event that would serve to further unify Gazyra was the Gereian invasion in 2581 BFK. Gereian raiders had for a long time been a nuisance in the northern regions of the Lake Kingdom, but this time they had banded together into a horde of tens of thousands, which was enough to threaten all of Gazyra. The three kings allied their forces and marched together to face the Gereian horde. The Gazyrans defeated the Gereian threat in the legendary Battle of Saya River, the Lake King Kahaj the Great being remembered as the battle’s greatest hero. However, in 2566 BFK Kahaj the Great died, which was followed by his brother Serej murdering his son and heir Uhor and usurping the crown for himself. Serej’s rule was seen as illegitimate by most Gazyrans, and in 2565 BFK he was defeated and removed from his throne by the River King Brasar the Blessed, who was the son-in-law of Kahaj the Great. Brasar took his father-in-law’s crown, becoming the first man to be both River King and Lake King. Not wanting to favor one kingdom over the other, he made Qasar his new capital. The Mountain King was quick to submit to Brasar as well, and he was allowed to keep his crown and title, though his heir peacefully resigned them. This was the beginning of the Era of High Kings and the Brasarian Dynasty.
The Brasarian Dynasty was the first dynasty of Gazyran High Kings. However, their struggle to maintain the status established by Brasar the Blessed begun during the fourth king of the line, Kahaj II, who ascended to the throne in 2491 BFK. He was a weak and sickly man, seen by many as unfit to rule. On top of this he was heirless for more than half of his reign, and by the time he got a son it was rumored that the boy wasn’t truly of Kahaj’s seed. However, despite his disadvantages Kahaj II was quite a capable and cunning ruler, using every asset at his disposal from bribery to blackmail to keep Gazyra within his grasp. Kahaj II died in 2460 BFK and was succeeded by his then 15-year-old son Tukar. King Tukar was not seen as weak like his father, and during his early reign he was actually a well-loved ruler. Before reaching his mid-twenties he funded the construction of dozens of new temples and lead a military campaign up the river Deja to conquer the region of Derenia. However, King Tukar’s mental state begun to deteriorate as he grew older, making him more and more paranoid about those who questioned his legitimacy. Eventually he begun to violently punish his subjects for mere suspicion of treachery, which earned him the moniker of Tukar the Tormentor. Tukar died suddenly in 2429 BFK, after his cruelty and quarrels with the nobles had pushed Gazyra to the verge of civil war, and it has been speculated that his son Kahaj poisoned him to save the kingdom. After ascending to the throne King Kahaj III immediately begun to repair the relations between the crown and its vassals, which secured him a peaceful and prosperous reign. However, his successor, King Brasar III, would be the last High King of the Brasarian Dynasty. He was generally seen as an incompetent ruler, more concerned with hedonistic pursuits than the duties of a king. His only son, Prince Tukar, died in battle against the Gereians 2393 BFK, and just three years later King Brasar III died without a male heir. His youngest daughter Princess Tahana took the crown, but was removed from the throne mere months later by Nomarch Ralan of Bassaj – the husband of King Brasar’s oldest daughter. The High Priests crowned Ralan as the new High King of Gazyra, and so begun the Ralanian Dynasty.
The Ralanian Dynasty is for the most part remembered as a prosperous era in the Gazyran history, including such famed High Kings as Ralan II, Jakaharan the Just and Erehar the Builder, who advanced the kingdom in significant ways by building new infrastructure and making reforms to its military, laws, governance and taxation. The Ralanian Dynasty also gave Gazyra its first female ruler in the form of Queen Asadaha, who reigned from 2160 to 2133 BFK. She was known as a wise and charismatic ruler, and her greatest achievement was vastly expanding Gazyra’s trade with its neighboring regions. The Ralanian Dynasty came to its end in 2066 BFK when King Ralan V died without a clear heir, driving Gazyra to a long and bloody civil war. This period is known as the Years of Chaos, during which dozens of pretender kings declared themselves the High King. However, eventually the High Priests gave their support to a man named Isetekar, who they said was a king sent by the gods themselves to unite Gazyra once again. The people of Gazyra were tired of fighting against their countrymen and rallied behind Isetekar the Peacemaker, who was crowned as the first God-King of Gazyra in 2049 BFK.
Isetekar’s reign begun the era of God-Kings chosen by the High Priests. As the title implies, the God-Kings were deified and made a subject of worship for the people, with massive amounts of wealth going just into maintaining their grand and glorious public appearance. This new order made the Nine Cults more powerful than ever before, and it was said that the High Priests were the true rulers and the God-King merely their puppet. This may have been true in some cases, but just as often the God-King chosen by the High Priests was indeed a strong and competent ruler. Examples of such God-Kings are Athaseker the Glorious who conquered Achia during the late 20th century BFK, Nebehor the Warrior who conquered Macaria in 1825 BFK, and Konehek the Sailmaker who established the first Gazyran colonies in Balaria during the 18th century BFK. However, during the 17th century BFK there were three consequent God-Kings that were infamous during their reigns and even more so afterwards. First of “the Unholy Three” as they are now called was Umhar the Unworthy, who reigned from 1688 to 1669 BFK, and was believed to have bribed his way to the crown. He was succeeded by Mahor the Mad, who reigned from 1669 to 1664 BFK, sacrificing hundreds of his servants to the gods in bloody rituals. And lastly there was Herkhenes the Unjust, who reigned from 1664 to 1645 BFK, and infamously abused the ancient laws of Gazyra to punish anyone who even slightly questioned his authority. The tensions between the High Priests and the Gazyran nobility kept rising throughout the reigns of the Unholy Three, and after Herkhenes’ passing the High Priests were practically forced to choose a God-King “suggested” by the nobles. This God-King was Athaseker III, also known as Athaseker the Conciliator. He made reforms to the Gazyran laws, as well as greatly reduced the authority of the High Priests by changing the rules of succession so that a God-King would designate an heir, which would then have to be approved by a majority of the High Priests and the nomarchs.
This new system established by Athaseker the Conciliator worked as intended for about a century, until being replaced by the first hereditary dynasty of God-Kings during the late 16th century BFK. What led to this were the wars against the Red Kings of Harkia. God-King Pteras I argued that if Gazyra wished to remain strong enough to resist the militaristic Kingdom of Harkia they should adopt their system of hereditary monarchy. And so he designated his son Pteras II as his heir – an act that had been forbidden in the laws laid out by Athaseker. After a few generations all the formalities of Athaseker’s system were rejected, and the Pterasian Dynasty became purely hereditary. The Pterasian Dynasty lasted until 1304 BFK, after which it was replaced by the Sethenian Dynasty. Sethenian God-Kings had a reputation as tyrants, and they were overthrown in a civil war lasting from 1155 to 1147 BFK. After that there was a short period of God-Kings elected by the nomarchs, until the Hanharian Dynasty rose to power during the 11th century BFK. The rule of the Hanharian God-Kings is remembered as a cultural golden age of Gazyra, with trade and diplomatic relations reaching as far Mysara. The last God-King of Hanharian Dynasty died in 511 BFK, which was followed by a series of short-lived dynasties, most lasting no longer than two generations.
In 233 BFK a military commander named Zahur ascended to the throne after having served the former God-King for decades, beginning what would be remembered as the last great dynasty of God-Kings. The Zahurian Dynasty was more militaristic and expansionist than the ones that came before it, which eventually culminated in the God-King Rahar Bloodspear conquering both Harkia and Abara in wars spanning from 154 to 141 BFK. Bloodspear’s wars of conquest made Gazyra the largest empire in the world at the time, starting the brief period in history known as the Gazyran Hegemony. This hegemony would come crushing down in 105 BFK when God-King Ufar (the grandson of Rahar Bloodspear) was assassinated on the road between Abara and Harkia, and his young heir Rahar III was shortly after murdered back in Qasar. This was followed by the Age of Collapse, during which Gazyra fell into a chaotic time of civil wars, famine and incursions by Hykyran warlords. During this chaotic time the only institution whose authority persisted throughout most of Gazyra was the Nine Cults and their High Priests.
In 102 AFK the High Priests crowned a new God-King, Khem the Golden Dawn, thus reforming the Kingdom of Gazyra nearly two centuries after the fall of the Zahurian Dynasty. However, the authority of this new Khemian Dynasty only nominally reached beyond the walls of the capital city, with the nomarchs of Gazyra governing their districts with complete sovereignty even after recognizing Khem as the God-King. Thus, in this reformed Kingdom of Gazyra the constitutional hierarchy was much less centralized than it had been before the Age of Collapse, and the God-King was seen mostly just as a figurehead or a ceremonial leader with little in terms of real power. The last God-King of the Khemian Dynasty died in 296 AFK without an heir, after which it was decided that the High Priest would once again choose the God-Kings. Even after this the God-King’s authority remained minimal on everything except religious matters. The reformed Kingdom of Gazyra never regained the strength it had in the past, failing to conquer Achia and Macaria despite several attempts.
In 507 AFK a dispute between two powerful Gazyran nomarchs led to a civil war that engulfed the whole kingdom. The God-King Aranhis the Fallen refused to take sides and ordered the leaders of the quarreling factions to come and settle their dispute in the capital. However, his orders were dismissed by both sides and the war continued. The Barvian King Syreda the Strong saw the divide in Gazyra and seized the opportunity to conquer it. In a campaign lasting from 508 to 514 AFK Syreda marched his armies across Gazyra, defeating the forces of both Gazyran factions, eventually seizing control of every major city except the capital. As Syreda finally laid siege on Qasar the God-King Aranhis took his own life, and so the gates were opened to the Barvian king. Gazyra was made a province of the Barvian Empire, and the High Priests declared Syreda the new God-King.
Wadaha was made the provincial capital of Gazyra, and the seat of its imperial satrap. Syreda and his successors saw that the Nine Cults were the most influential institution within Gazyra, as well as the one with most potential to unite the Gazyrans against their occupiers. Thus, the Barvians have made sure to pacify and pamper the high priests to discourage them from rebellious acts. Gazyran nobility on the other hand was mostly pushed off from their seats of power over the decades following the conquest, replaced with either Barvian nobility or loyalist Gazyrans. There have been several rebellions against the Barvian rule, all of them unsuccessful. These rebellions have mostly been instigated by disgraced Gazyran nobles but have failed to gain the full support of the Nine Cults or the people at large.
Religion and Culture
The major religion of Gazyra is that of the Nine Cults. The Nine Cults are dedicated to the nine major Gazyran deities, each having their dedicated priests and temples. The Nine Gods include Alam, the creator and the god of sun; Eser, the protector god of Gazyra; Hissa, the goddess of motherhood, childbirth and healing; Wasja, the goddess of afterlife, justice and mercy; Korom, the god of death and rebirth and ruler of afterlife; Zoskar, the god of beasts, wilderness and hunt; Mahur, the god of agriculture and rivers; Avuhes, the god of war; and Kefa, the goddess of chaos and darkness. However, there are also dozens of minor deities in addition to the nine major ones, though they have no temples or clergy.
At the head of each cult is a High Priest who serves for life, chosen by the sacred councils of said cults. The priests of the Nine Cults enjoy from many privileges, including the right to collect taxes. They also have the authority to act as lawgivers on any religious matters – a precondition that is sometimes interpreted quite liberally. Traditionally the priests of the Nine Cults have also been the only ones permitted to practice magic in Gazyra, it being punishable by death for others. This is no longer true under the Barvian law, but it is still sometimes enforced by the priests, especially on districts with little oversight from Barvian authorities.
Priesthood in Gazyra is allowed only for men, but many women work as so-called temple sisters, whose duties range from assisting the priests with their ceremonies to embalming the dead or acting as midwives. Temple sisters are also often allowed to use some mild forms of magic, such as healing spells.
The many festivals held throughout the year are an important part of the Gazyran religion and culture. In these festivals the priests have an opportunity to teach the people about the gods, and the people are allowed to enter the sacred rooms of the temples to personally worship their gods (whereas outside of festivals they may only plead for the priests to worship for them). The festivals are also important communal events, including celebrations and traditions that bring the people together.
In their leisure time Gazyrans enjoy such things as gardening, water-sports, chariot races, wrestling, stick-fighting, falconry, music, dancing and gambling. Gazyra also has a long history in brewery of beer, which is why it’s the most common drink in the land, along with water of course. Wine is more commonly seen as the drink of the higher classes (nobles and priests).
Gazyrans highly value their personal hygiene, bathing and shaving regularly, as well as grooming their silky hair. The wealthier folk of Gazyra also have a liking to perfumes and cosmetics, used by both men and women. Due to the land’s hot climate Gazyrans usually dress lightly. The common people wear simple white linen clothes, whereas the nobles prefer colorful attires adorned with patterns and trimmings, and the priests wear fine black silk robes. Another common symbol of wealth and status is golden jewelry, with Gazyran artisans making some of the most elaborate necklaces, bracelets and tiaras in the world.
Gazyra is a land famed for its magnificent temples, tombs and monuments, all of which speak for its glorious history. Gazyran folklore is rich with stories blending together history and legend, always glorifying Gazyrans as the chosen people of their gods. Overall, the Gazyran culture is one with long and glorious past, and its people are proud of their heritage. However, it is also a land of conflicting ambitions and internal discord, perhaps now under the Barvian rule more than ever before.
Constitution and Economy
At the head of the provincial government of Gazyra is its imperial satrap, appointed by the emperor. Satrap serves for life, or until retiring or being resigned by the emperor. Satrap’s primary duty is to enforce the Barvian imperial law in the province, as well as to collect and direct a yearly sum of tax revenue back to the emperor. The Satrap of Gazyra has a council of 14 advisors, consisting of imperial administrators, military officers and judicial officers, including members appointed by the emperor and ones recruited by the satrap. The Nine Cults also still hold a significant amount of authority, especially among the southern districts. They collect taxes that are not beholden to the empire, and they are allowed to hold judicial authority on religious matters.
A step lower from the satrap on the Gazyran hierarchy are the nomarchs, who act as the local governors of Gazyra’s 11 districts. Nomarchs serve for life and must be officially approved by the satrap upon taking office. However, they are not chosen by the satrap but rather by noble councils of their district, which consists of Gazyrans with noble heritage as well as immigrated Barvian nobles. The nomarch themselves doesn’t need to be a noble, but one out of the noble class is rarely chosen. Nomarch’s duty is to enforce the imperial law as well as to collect and direct taxes for the satrap.
Outside of priesthood, Gazyra has always been notably egalitarian when it comes to the rights of men and women. Women are allowed to own property, marry (or refuse to marry) whom they wish, dress as they like, and choose their profession.
Slavery has been persistently present in Gazyra since the Lost Age. Common household and farm slaves are usually Gazyran people who have lost all their possessions and as a last effort sold themselves to slavery. Slaves used in mines and other hard labor on the other hand have traditionally been foreign prisoners of war or captured Gereians, while slaves with more precise expertise such as scholars or prostitutes are usually bought from foreign slave traders. Slaves are allowed to marry and breed with the permission of their masters. It is also common for a master to pay a small wage for their slaves, as well as allow them to purchase freedom after long servitude. It is considered normal for a common farmer to own a few slaves, whereas the wealthiest nobles may have upwards of a hundred slaves on their estates. Barvians don’t promote slavery in the region, but neither have they outlawed it.
The backbone of the Gazyran economy have always been the plentiful crops yielded by the fertile plains between the Golden Sea and Lake Marei. During the Lost Age all of the land was technically owned by the God-King, but only half of the crops were actually seized by the state, the rest being the farmer’s property to do with as they wished. This changed following the Age of Collapse, being replaced with a much less centralized order. The land was now owned mostly by various nobles and priests, who had the authority to tax the crops from their lands as they willed, resulting in rather tyrannical order in some regions. However, the Barvian administration has brought some regulation to this, decreeing minimum and maximum taxes for the landowners.
Another major part of the Gazyran economy are their mines in the Basar Mountains. These mines yield copper, iron, silver and most importantly gold. Most of the extracted raw minerals remain in Gazyra to be manufactured by local metalworkers. The finished works of these metalworkers are then mostly sold on Gazyran markets, but some are also transported to foreign trade.
Wadaha is the provincial capital of Gazyra, though it is only the fourth largest city of the province. However, with a population of little over 100 000 it is by far the largest of the Gazyran cities north of Lake Marei. The city has its origins in the time of the Brasarian Dynasty, when a defensive fortress was first built on the location to defend Gazyra from northern invaders. Later with increased trade to the north a city grew around this fortress. However, Wadaha only truly grew into one of the major cities of Gazyra after being made its provincial capital by the Barvian conquerors. Today it has the largest Barvian population out of all the Gazyran cities, with nearly 50% of its residents having Barvian heritage. A divide between Gazyrans and Barvians in Wadaha – especially within its poorer parts – has at times been quite hostile. During the past decades more and more Gazyrans have decided to move out of Wadaha, whilst more and more Barvian migrants keep pouring in from the north.
Qasar is the ancient capital of Gazyra, situated on the southern tip of Lake Marei. With a population of around 200 000 it is the second largest of all the Gazyran cities. Qasar used to be the seat of the God-Kings, and today it is the religious center of Gazyra. The nine High Priests directly control the city, with many ancient laws that have been abandoned elsewhere still being fully enforced. There is hardly any Barvian presence in Qasar, and it is often considered a cesspit of anti-imperial rebel factions. Overall the city is quite poor and in disrepair these days, except of course for the glorious temples of the Nine Cults.
Menehas is the center of trade on the coast of the Golden Sea. With a population of over 300 000 it is also the largest of all the Gazyran cities. Menehas is also the most culturally diverse city in Gazyra, with major influences from Barvian, Macarian, Achian, Balarian and Hykyran cultures. It was already a major trading port during the Lost Age, but if suffered heavily during the Age of Collapse, being sacked and occupied by Hykyran invaders. However, since the reformation of the Kingdom of Gazyra it has been on the rise again, only gaining a boost in wealth and population after the Barvian conquest. Today Menehas is perhaps the wealthiest and most lively of all the Gazyran cities, with flourishing trade and culture. However, especially among the Nine Cults the city is regarded as sinful and tainted by outside influences.
Hizibas is the capital of the wealthiest Gazyran district, located in the middle of the fertile plains between Lake Marei and the Golden Sea. With a population of around 160 000 it is the third largest of all the Gazyran cities. Hizibas is where Gazyran nobility still holds a significant amount of power, the farmlands surrounding the city being under the ownership of their lavish estates. Political intrigue and struggle for power is constant in Hizibas, with loyalist and anti-imperial factions fighting for control in the shadows.
Climate, Landscape and Wildlife
The climate in Gazyra is mostly hot and dry though some rains usually happen during the autumn and winter. However, it’s the great rivers flowing through the land that are its beating heart, enabling Gazyra’s thriving agriculture. The southern plains between Lake Marei and the Golden Sea especially have a rich and nutritious soil, and the Gazyran people have learned long ago to use the rivers and their annual flooding to their advantage. In the vast fields of these farmlands are cultivated grains, fruits and vegetables, but also flax, castor oil, medical herbs and papyrus. The parts in these southern plains that are not farmlands are mostly marshlands, famed for their fearsome crocodiles.
The lands to the west, east and north of Lake Marei are arid steppe, and much more sparsely populated than the southern plains. In these parts of Gazyra the keeping and herding of livestock is much more common than in the south, as well as hunting. Animals commonly hunted on these dry plains include antelopes, ibexes and lions. Hyenas are also a common nuisance for herdsmen. Fishing is another particularly important livelihood in the lake region.
Gazyra is surrounded from almost all directions by mountains. These mountain regions are by far the wildest and most sparsely populated areas in Gazyra. The Basar mountains of course are famed for their mines, whereas the Gerei Mountains have a reputation of danger and inhospitality. This reputation stems not only from the sometimes aggressive Gerei tribes that habit these lands, but also by the often hazardous terrain and the hungry predators, such as cougars.