Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Notes about Bursia

This post is a follow-on from the  first post, Bursia, the Human Empire

Athletic and Gladiatorial Games
Sports and games were an important part of Bursian life. In the early days this was athletics, including running, javelin throwing, archery and wrestling. However, this evolved (degenerated?) into the far more brutal and bloody gladiatorial games, where humans (usually prisoners of war and condemned criminals) were pitted against monsters, wild beasts or each other. Since the Summoning, the surviving city-states do not have the resources to put on this sort of spectacle regularly, but every Bursian city has (or had) an arena or circus for sports and shows. This sort of bloodthirsty entertainment still ousts theatre and athletics out of the spotlight when there is a surplus of criminals or captured enemies.

Social Classes and Slavery 

Strictly speaking, there are no nobles or royalty in Bursia. Early during the age of city-states the last kings were overthrown. However, the Emperor has become a king in all but name. The most notable difference is that the bloodline is less important, as adopted sons and occasional elected Emperors demonstrate. Similarly, there are no aristocrats, but there are patricians - wealthy merchants, retired generals, political advisors and land-owners from whose ranks senators are elected. 

Social stratas were not tightly fixed, and there was some meritocracy. A talented labourer could become an artisan, an artisan skilled at business could become a merchant. A merchant good with social skills could become a patrician. A patrician with political nous could become a senator. And a senator who offers strong leadership when the Empire is in trouble could become the Emperor. Such social climbing would be unthinkable in Toutus.

Slavery has a history in Burisa - right through its early days of city states, republic and first empire, slaves were the principle hard labour force of the Bursian Empire, rowing galleys, working in mines, tilling the fields and providing the brute strength for construction. However, during the Age of Tetrarchs, the abolition of slavery became a matter of heated debate. In the following Tetrarch War, slavery and its abolition was at stake, and the victor of the war, Emperor Aurelius, abolished it in BY 564.
However, since the Summoning and the collapse of the Empire, some surviving settlements, even city-states, have re-introduced slavery, particularly those with an influx of homeless refugees. For those surviving settlements that have not done so, this is an affront to their values, and this could lead to war.


The Academies
The Academies were a vital part of Bursian life, and where city-states have survived the Summoning, they still play a role. Academies started off as schools, and still perform that function. They then developed into centres of learning and research – philosophy, law, history, nature and the like. Some of the greatest thinkers of the ancient world were attracted to the great academies of the larger city-states even before Bursia became a republic. Academies then started to include the study of magic, and mages joined the academies, particularly as the Republic grew and developed. During the first Empire and the Age of the Tetrarchs, the Academies and their scholars (including the mages) stayed politically neutral (and often neutral in alignment as well). However, with the Tetrarch War, Aurelius the Great persuaded the mages of the Academy to become the guardians of stability within the Empire.


Armed Forces
The armed forces of Bursia were organised into legions - self-contained armies about two or three thousand strong, with their own auxiliaries, baggage train, engineers and staff officers. The more recent legions were equipped with banded mail, large shields, javelins and short-swords, but older ones were kitted out with long spears, bronze armour (AC 6) and round shields. These legions saw action in many lands during the Wars Between the Empires, including defending the Bursian homeland. They were renowned for their tight formation and unflinching discipline, often staying silent while their enemies hollered and jeered. The legionaries themselves were all heavy infantry, but their auxiliaries were cavalry, archers and skirmishers, sometimes from different parts of the Empire, sometimes from totally different lands.
Before the rise of the Empire and during its early days, the legions were raised by each city-state. However, after a notorious civil war that nearly caused the end of the Bursian Empire, the legions were kept under strict Imperial control and were often composed of soldiers from different city-states in the same formation.

The navy relied mainly on galleys, powered both by sails and by oars (manned by slaves in the early days). These galleys were not good for wide open oceans (the rowers needed plenty of food and fresh water), but they were effective closer to shore where supplies were more available. The galleys were often more maneuverable when winds were slow.

Architecture
The Bursians were also great builders - whereas Toutus was renowned for its castles, Bursia built entire cities to precise architectural plans, with its well-known columned fronts, mosaic tiling and beautifully carved friezes, while sanitation was maintained with aqueducts bringing in fresh water, sewers disposing of foul water and bath houses where well-off citizens could stay clean and also relax and chat.

Religion

Religion was taken seriously, and magnificent temples were built, but the priests and clerics never had the same level of social or legal authority as in some places (such as Toutus, where the lawful churches give moral and spiritual support to the rulers).  There was also the tendency to worship neutral rather than lawful deities, as Bursia in general was more interested in prosperity and stability than morality or humaneness. Vought, Khazep and Partheusa were all popular, while the clergy of Sestarna and Chelmor complained too much about slavery and gladiator games.






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