1. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    Political organization

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Aldarion, May 7, 2020.

    This is the overview of my setting's "protagonist" state political organization:
    So, I have a few questions re:the above:
    1) Are there any holes that really need adressing?
    2) How stable/unstable will such system be? I know that Byzantine Empire had regular "elections" (read: thematic armies beating up each other over who will be the Emperor) but what about other aspects - importance of cities (since here cities do have some tradition of self-governance) etc..?
    3) Which corner are disturbances most likely to come from? Personally, I'd say that it would be provincial governors, but is there anything I'm missing?
     
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  2. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    From what you write, it all seems pretty well though out. However, I wonder at the reason for the imperial provinces being ruled by a military governor. That would seem to: 1) give a lot of power to those governors; and 2) probably not result in the happiest citizenry. The governor, being a military man all his life, would probably focus on the army and neglect the civilians, and maybe not be the most understanding of civilian concerns. He might also prove heavy handed, with the might of the army behind him, and what did the poor people do to be placed under military rule? I'd recommend having civilian governors.
     
  3. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Active Member

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    Given the oppertunity for interesting troubles and drama that could come from a military rule, I'd recommend to keep it. An empire that is to well running will provide far less material for stories.
     
  4. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe, depending on the stories.
     
  5. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Active Member

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    Of course. But I dare say that almost every story will benefit from an imperfect system.
     
  6. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    Sure.
    I wasn't proposing a perfect system, though, just raising questions about why imperial provinces would be placed under military rule in the first place. However, I don't know to what extent the cities are individually self-governing.
     
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  7. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    One of out-of-universe reasons why I opted for such organization is precisely potential for conflict. Also, I like Byzantine military and Byzantine politics, so I ended up basing political and military organization of the Empire on Middle Byzantine thematic system. It also helps that it is a topic which I am familiar with (I was always interested in Roman Empire, and then expanded that interest onto Byzantine Empire as well).

    In-universe reason for such organization is because Empire is under constant threat from everything ranging from fish people over walking skeletons to actual human states bordering it. Mostly raids but also occasional full-blown invasion or a siege. This means that the entire Empire is, essentially, a garrison state.

    Regarding potential for conflict, I have so far identified several main avenues of conflict; but there are still a lot of questions:
    1) Center-periphery. We are talking about Byzantine-style centralized monarchy, so outright separatism likely would not happen. Still, I need to look more into mechanisms on how Byzantines prevented that - and they did it successfuly, seeing how every time thematic governor rebelled, goal was to march on Constantinople and don the purple. There however would be governors vyng for more power, possibly several of them allying against the Emperor (if latter is unpopular) and so on.
    2) Periphery-periphery. Quite obvious, but still a lot of questions. How often did generals of themes get into conflicts with each other, what caused those, and what were the consequences? My impression is that various thematic generals typically went along well, especially when they had to beat up the Emperor.
    3) Rich-middle class. Byzantines did not have class conscience so "class conflict" is not really proper term. Still, rich dynatoi and, especially, nouveau riche in coastal cities which appeared with 9th-10th century recovery had interests which were directly opposed to those of "middle-class" of landed military personnel as well as the central government. Rise of huge estates directly threatened - and in the end destroyed - structural basis of Byzantine thematic system, so Emperors attempted to curb it (e.g. Romanos I, Basil II).

    However, I can't help but think that I am oversimplifying a lot here. Are there any books dealing with social and political conflicts within Byzantine Empire? I mostly studied military matters so far, so the only book which deals with such conflicts outside the scope of military organization is Kaldellis' The Byzantine Republic. OTOH, seeing how military and politics are interwoven here, I might be unnecessarily complicating things for myself...

    That is another thing I am having trouble figuring out. I know that cities in Principate had high degree of autonomy. But is such a thing possible with thematic system? I will need to look into Middle Byzantine municipal organization, but what I have found so far on the topic deals with either Roman Republic, Principate or Komnenian Empire. I found nothing on political status of cities in the period I am interested in (specifically, 641. - 1081., but especially 745. - 1025.).
     
  8. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    :) Napoleonic smile.

    On the topic, however. To your latter question of books on Byzantine politics; I'd recommend "The 48 Laws of Power" as a general historical / political reference as it pretty much conveys the (rather sociopathic) nature of power. For now, to answer the questions:

    Religion and/or belief. It played an important role in Byzantine politics; as it established a secondary power (Patriarch) as well as stoked numerous conflicts (Iconoclasm, etc).

    Absolutely unstable and pretty much a perpetual internal civil war for the empire. But hey, that's what made the Byzantine Empire so unique too. And the HRE. So nothing far off.

    Provincial governors; perhaps. Though I suggest you don't disregard the personal court of the Emperor. With your justice system, it seems like your emperor will be preoccupied 24/7, leaving many state matters and ceremonies in the hands of courtiers. These courtiers would likely be relatives of the provincial governors (a thrive of them to keep presence in the imperial palace, whereas an opportunity to have insight into families / take a hostage for the emperor).
     
  9. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    Not sure if this will help you too much but I just wanted to let you know that I really love your system. It's a very interesting setup for an empire that subverts the "evil empire" stereotype. It shows how complex a system like this really is, and that the onus for wrongdoings is never really on one person. It seems like it could actually function really well. I particularly enjoy that the emperor is treated as a sort of public servant, rather than an all-powerful figurehead. Watching the emperor struggle with the will of his people against military desire, while taking all the blame as a public figure could be a tragically beautiful storyline!
     
  10. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    Thanks. I really love Roman and Byzantine history, so that has shown here.

    Thanks. I actually covered that in other place, but only religion itself; I guess I should give a thought to how it impacts politics.

    Thanks; and yes, that is what I was aiming at. Though I'd say that Byzantine Empire had what I call "dynamic stability": it was stable instability, and in fact political system contained instability as its feature. Basically like today's democracies, which themselves are extremely unstable - but that instability is formalized in form of elections, protests, strikes etc.

    Though I am intrigued about your comment on HRE. In what ways was HRE similar to Byzantine Empire? I thought it was basically a very loose federation hardly capable of doing anything unless its electors felt fire under their feet, or is that just a mistaken impression?

    Emperor only formalizes customs in shape of laws; for actual judicial tasks - such as settling disputes - there would be courts of law and judges. Though I guess I should give Byzantine legal system a look as well.
     
  11. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    That makes much more sense than what I thought you meant.
    It seems to me that the responsibilities of military leadership and security concerns on the part of the thematic governors would leave quite a bit of potential autonomy open for the cities. Does the governor really feel like punishing petty thieves and organizing the night watch? I wonder if the cities wouldn't take care of those sorts of domestic concerns by themselves. Also, to what degree is your empire a federal one? Can the themes or cities legislate by themselves? A constitutional recognition of municipal prerogatives might add some interesting tension when opposed with the necessities of national security as recognized in the office of the thematic governor.
     
  12. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    Bolded part is among things I am still figuring out. Empire began as a federation of cities, but security concerns and expansion eventually transformed it into a more unitary one. Which then led to push-and-pull between central government and periphery, so at times it was less unitary and at times more unitary. At the time when story is set, it would be akin to 7th-9th century Byzantine Empire; but "status of cities in middle byzantine period" Google search did not reveal any useful information, and actual books I have on Byzantine Empire are mostly about military matters (organization, strategy etc.).
     
  13. Roberta Parsnip

    Roberta Parsnip New Member

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    1) There probably is, but it's not likely that it would actually matter. This is because the political system should be a tool to shape the plot and the characters. Often times overthinking it and adding too many elements will just make the plot confusing.
    2) When Ben Franklin left the Congressional meeting that formed the constitution he was approached and asked "What kind of government did you make us?" And Franklin replied, "A republic. And it's for you to keep it." That's as good of answer as any.
    3) Everywhere and nowhere. Any time there's power there's corruption.
     
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  14. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    OK, I added these bits:

    Most day-to-day governance however is carried out at individual settlement level. Many laws – those which concern internal governnace of cities – are in the hands of city assemblies. These assemblies can range from only richest people in the city to the entire adult male populace. Most often however they are comprised of military personnel – thematic troops and city militia.

    -----

    Politics of power

    Empire has essentially three power blocks: Emperor, large landowners (optimates), and small landowners (populares). Last group is centered primarily on military personnel and many local officials. Aside from those three Empire-wide groups, there is the fourth group – inhabitants of the capital – who push their influence by direct pressure on the Emperor.

    In terms of power relations, Emperor and small landowners usually unite against large landowners. Prohibition on maintenance of private militia means that large landowners cannot directly defy the Emperor, and instead have to attempt to install an Emperor who is favourable to them. Fact that the Emperor himself must rely also on support from the military means that it is impossible for an Emperor who favours any single group to exclusion of all others to remain on the throne. It also means that access to imperial military power is necessary to push one's agenda in a violent manner – town militias are simply not enough – which again serves to curtail separatism.

    Army is recruited directly from provincial populace. Recruitment system means that military units are heavily localized and highly integrated into local community. Thus they also serve as a medium through which provincial populace can express its political interests. If central government mismanages provinces, it can easily cause anything from passive resistance to all-out rebellion.
     

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