1. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    Communication throughout Pre-technology Civilization

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by ITBA01, Jul 4, 2019.

    In the book I'm writing, the main setting is a Republic that spans across a territory around the size of Europe. I wanted to make it that citizens all around are able to vote, and senators are able to remain in contact with their provinces. The problem is that there's no telephones or any technology of the sort. It seems as though elections would take a long time without this feature, and I can't figure out how to get around it. I was considering some kind of magic communication system, but I'm not sure how it would work or fit into the story. If anyone has any other ideas as to how an expansive, ancient democracy could work, I'd like to hear it.
     
  2. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Most pre-modern republics tended to 1) be relatively small or 2) only give representation to their core territories. If your country is as big as Europe, #1 is obviously out. And since you want everyone to be able to vote, #2 is out as well.

    The early United States, as in before the proliferation of the telegraph, might be worth a look. It wasn't "around the size of Europe" big, but it was still probably the biggest republic since Rome.

    Looking at the early US, we see:

    1) A federalist system. States have their own republican governments to handle things within their territory. You might consider applying this to your republic's provinces.

    2) Hardly any national elections. Representatives got elected from districts in each state, while Senators at the time were picked by the state legislatures.

    And up until 1824, there wasn't even a popular vote that influenced how electors were allocated in presidential elections. The people elected their state legislators, those legislators picked the electors, and the Electoral College picked the president.

    If your republic has a more parliamentary system, you wouldn't even need to have a national election for the chief executive; legislators can pick one of their own number once they're all seated in the capital.

    3) A months long "lame duck" period. This gave newly elected officeholders time to travel to the capital. Definitely something you'll want if your republic is as big as Europe.

    4) Recesses. The amount of time Congress spends not working gets a lot of criticism today, but it has its roots in how long it took to travel back home and listen to your constituents.

    If you want your senators to remain in touch with their provinces, this is probably the best way to do that without some form of magic.
     
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  3. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    If the issue is communication itself, look at the measurable performance of ancient systems. Something that can be scheduled is preferable, so 'results' can be tabulated in a timely fashion. This would involve a system that had alternatives and divisions; state/military directive, correspondence, parcel. The schedule is important so that the estimate of return correspondence is accurate. Early UPS tracking! Watchtowers, signals, etc. Obviously, you would want to combine the best ideas together. Is that what your question was about?
     
  4. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    I don’t see any way that a democracy would work in an ancient setting - at least not anything like modern-day democracy. That alone should make it easier as really you’re talking more or less about a feudal system. If not then maybe the whole system would work under some form of guild system?

    To communicate I reckon some fast beast/s capable of swift travel - land, air and/or sea. You could eve make the creatures ‘magical’, able to traverse space-time in a manner no other being could. That would of course open up a new set of problems as whoever breeds, owns, controls these beasts would be powerful. So perhaps several different kinds of beast? Some native to certain areas and used as a kind of regional currency and/or symbol?

    If you want a democracy power has to be spread out in a relatively ‘even’ proportion. Secrecy could be achieved by cryptology so that isn’t much of a problem.

    Geese can fly 1500 miles in a day depending on weather. Tuna are pretty quick - you’d have to look that up. Either way I don’t see a way around a slow exchange of messages. If the capital is central then I would say a 2-4 day response time isn’t completely unrealistic. Direct communication would certainly require telepathy/magic/tech. All of which would have to be considered in various other aspects of day-to-day life in this world.

    As it’s fiction you could just gloss over the details and merely suggest some intricate system involving various tried and tested methods of scrying, pigeons, smoke signals and horse messengers - postmen (I have visions of Kevin Costner all of a sudden).
     
  5. Pleasurist

    Pleasurist New Member

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    Prehistoric: the use of fire, smoke, and horns were effective ways for groups or individuals to communicate the need for assistance or to share information about important events.

    In the 5th century, people relied on pigeons to carry messages to nearby towns and communities.

    $th and 5th century: Hydraulic and maritime Semaphores were a popular method of communication, especially at sea. First popularized by the Greeks, semaphores were used to relay coded messages through a series of containers filled with water, floating rods, and various symbols. Messages were sent by lowering and raising water heights to predetermined amounts.
     
  6. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    - Only those who own land are citizens.
    - Governmental info is announced in churches every Sunday morning.
    - Every parish area selects it's representatives. They go to larger meeting to select representatives of that county. They become a parliament.
    - Nobles, church and burghers select they own representatives.
    - Senators are able to remain in contact with their provinces through post, burghers, church and justice and military systems. Every route gives a bit different kind of knowledge.
    - Tax authorities & church have books about citizens. I you want to vote, you better have your name in their books.
    - Voting = acclamation.
    - Inns & post office & tax collectors & other moving governmental staff & burghers are deeply connected. Inns are the route of unofficial information and rumours.
     
  7. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    Thanks for all the suggestions. It's given me a few ideas, but I still need to think it through. The setting if probably closest to the Roman Republic, with normal citizens, a senate and a consul (yes, I know there were two consuls, but the role is more like the rank of dictator in my book, except with not quite as much power). The citizens would elect the consul, and the consul would appoint the senate. Do you think this system could work, or am I missing something?
     
  8. thiefacrobat286

    thiefacrobat286 Member

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    I'm gonna speak through my own writing preferences here: Magic Technology. However, I don't know if this kind of trope is your sort of thing. Instead of "Tech" you have the same functions, only with "Magic" (ie Alternative Science)
     
  9. thiefacrobat286

    thiefacrobat286 Member

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    JRPGs like Final Fantasy 6 and Lost Odyssey can showcase you some of these things.
     
  10. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    I was originally going to go this route. The problem is that it doesn't really fit with the story I wanted to tell. For starters, magic is quite dangerous to use in my book, with many terrible side effects if misused. For example, fire magic can cause spontaneous combustion, water magic can cause you to drown in your own bodily fluids and light magic can cause temporary or even permanent blindness. Because of this, magic takes years of training and immense concentration and really doesn't seem like the kind of thing commonfolk would use. There might be some form of magitek in the story, but it won't be a common thing and will probably be in its early stages (think a lot of the invention ideas of the Greek philosophers or DaVinci).

    Another reason I didn't want to use it is that I feel it makes the world feel smaller. I wanted it to feel like the world is limited by its lack of technology; not being able to transport soldiers across the republic quickly, which makes warfare a much more difficult matter.
     
  11. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    If citizens all across this continent-sized republic are voting directly for consul, then your initial feeling that elections would take a while is correct. Tallying all the votes is going to be a real pain.

    Completely separate from the communications issue, I find the idea of the consul appointing the senate very odd. It seems more like an elective monarchy, with the ruler filling in positions at court, than it does a republic. I see no reason for a consul not to completely shut their political rivals out of senate seats.
     
  12. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    That's a good point. I think it may end up being more of an elective monarchy with a bit of tweaking, but I just not sure at the moment. Another possibility I thought of would be that the senate selects the consul, and the public gets to vote yes or no (or, perhaps, voting just a formality).
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2019
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Carrier pigeons.

    Local elections, results reported by pigeon.
     
  14. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    Not a bad idea. Might use a mythical creature in place of pigeons (maybe griffins).
     
  15. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Ensorceled wyverns?
     
  16. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    The Roman Republic started out as a single city-state that had deposed its Kings and created perhaps the longest running republican system in the history of the world. They started to expand their territory, but voting rights were only held by Roman citizens until shortly before the republic's downfall.

    To vote, you had to actually be physically present in the city of time. They would gather people together, called the plebs, and have them assemble to make their votes on certain issues. Rome had a vibrant political culture, with candidates promoting their political views by speaking to the public in the Roman forum. The senate was populated by the Roman upper class only, but there was also power held by their middle equestrian class, and their lower plebian class through various mechanisms.

    The republic fell into chaos as its territories grew. They did accept votes from Italian allies before the republic's fall, but only in a token gesture. All their votes were lumped into one or two 'tribes" out of about 20, so their opinions had a disproportionately small weight.

    Some of the most important forces to explain why republics fail to have realistic representation are economic. If there is a wealth disparity between territories, one will be able to dominate over the others. Republics thrive in individual economic contributions from their citizens, not in resource wealth. Individuals have to hold wealth themselves, giving them power, and making their voice matter. We see in the Roman republic that it fell as this disparity increased, and found wealth in natural resources as well as trade.

    You might look to how the early American republic functioned to see how the mechanisms of this might play out over large territory physically. Generally the regions would govern themselves, and send representatives to the capital to make the votes. That's how a republic can work beyond just a city. Representatives. Communication is actually possible once they're all in the capital. And trade will need to be going on in order to actually keep the nation in a state where individuals matter enough to give them a vote. Voting can be done locally to elect representatives, and nationally by the representatives. Though even the idea of a nation is rather modern.
     
  17. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    After more planning, I've updated the model for the republic (or empire). If anyone could critique this, I'd appreciate it.

    Essentially, there are three bodies of power; the monarchy, the senate, and the common people. The monarchy is an emperor, who is selected by the senate and approved by the people. He serves for life and has command of the military, and the power to elect governors (leaders of provinces in the empire). The senate are a group of people who are appointed by the two censors; special senators who are voted in by the common people. They also serve for life (save for the censors, who are elected by the people every three years and are forbidden from running again), though they can be removed by a decision from the two censors and are divided into several ranks. They advise the emperor, but also decide on policy and funding (the emperor has command of the army, but the senate can choose to withhold funding). High ranking senators also lead legions and are often appointed as governors by the emperor if they display great talent. Lastly, the common people are normal citizens. They elect censors (and can also get them unelected if they find them to be performing poorly), as well as approve the emperor that the senate selects. Votes aren't counted one by one, rather different provinces vote (with more important provinces having more of a say) and the numbers are then added up.
     
  18. RobinLC

    RobinLC Active Member

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    For communication look at the pony express. You could do something similar.
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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  20. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    Interesting system. The vulnerabilities will be in people doing things that they aren't supposed to do:
    • Emperor exceeding his/her authority. Using funds from his private silver mine to pay soldiers to beat up political opponents in the street. Ignoring orders from the senate not to raid the treasury. Having senators who he doesn't like arrested. Bribing the senate to elect his/her child as the next emperor.
    • Censor exceeding his/her authority. Staying longer than they are supposed to due to a "temporary crisis." Selecting their cronies. Having senators prosecuted as enemies of the state, then replacing them with their cronies. Running senators they don't like out of town or forcing them to resign.
    • Senators exceeding their authority in similar ways. Vetoing or filibustering to the point where their rivals have to run them out of town, have them prosecuted as enemies of the state, creating dangerous precedents.
    Overall the censors and the emperor have a lot of power. This system could benefit from a judiciary or more formal checks and balances. From a storytelling point of view, also note that you may want it to be abused. Just depends. Nothing can replace a strong culture of independent government and mistrust of authority in singular rule though. The Romans had this and so do many modern republicans. Though it can also be a threat to the democracy when not paired with a trust in the system. The Roman republic fell apart when people stopped using political process to get the change that was necessary (and due to other economic forces behind the scenes that necessitated those changes).
     
  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Are you viewing this as a utopia, a dystopia, somewhere in between?
     
  22. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    Thanks for the critique. I don't intend for everyone to be completely balanced (for one, it's ancient times, and an unfair system can also create drama), I mostly just wanted it to feel like it could be a real government. I agree with you on the censors, and I've been considering ways to balance their power (maybe increasing their numbers, or a senator having to go through a long trial before being removed), though they can be removed by a vote if they've been shown to be abusing their power. Also, I never even considered an emperor funding an army with secret wealth and I might actually use that as a plot point.

    I would describe it as a utopia for the time period it's set in (it's not Earth, so there's no set period, but it most resembles the second century) in the sense that people live better lives than they would outside it. However, by modern-day standards, it would be viewed as authoritarian or corrupt (like Rome, it's an incredibly patriarchal society and the death penalty is the norm for criminals).
     
  23. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    Also it's important to know what checks exist on legislation passed. The Romans would pass laws that fundamentally changed their system, allowing people to exceed their term limits, changing balances of power, etc. Modern republics have constitutional limits on what laws can be passed. During the late republic, politicians usually had partisans who would beat up the opposition, and the legions were generally more loyal to their commanders than their senate, because they depended on their commanders (who were also politicians) getting them rewards and land grants in compensation.
     
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  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My apologies if you said, but is there a particular reason why the senators aren’t from districts, so that a local election sends a representative to the government?
     
  25. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    Senators are from the districts, but they can only gain their position if they have enough money and have some military experience. The empire is quite militaristic, due to the strength it needs to maintain its large size and protect its borders. There's also ranks in the senate, and you have to work your way up to reach the higher ranks (the public can't just elect a random person to the highest rank). The censor position exists so the emperor can't simply dismiss people he doesn't like and there's two of them to make sure that one person doesn't hold too much power.
     

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