The road not taken
Other notable settlements: Antium (major port city)
Ruler: First citizen Titus Magnus
Races: Primarily human
Religion: Large pantheon containing deities from all assimilated religions
Imports: Grain, spices, dried fruits, wine, wood, slaves
Exports: Glass, pottery, olive oil, olives, coins (monopoly in issuing coinage), tools, weapons
Government: Democracy / oligarchy
Army: Largest in the known world
The name of Demeria, the largest and greatest empire the world has ever seen, commands respect in the hearts of citizens living in all of its provinces and fear in her enemies. Yet Demeria was not always an empire. A little more than six hundred years ago, Demeria was a somewhat fertile, if not particularly rich land that lay beyond the eastern shores of the Inner Sea. Locked in eternal strife with the neighboring nation of Zargosh to the south, Demeria hardly seemed like a contender amongst the squabbling kingdoms scattered throughout the sea’s shores.
All of this started to change when the general Ambrosius Crassus inflicted several crashing defeats to Zargosh. With its armies destroyed, Zargosh had no choice except unconditional surrender. The once proud nation became the first of Demeria’s provinces, soon to be joined by other kingdoms that had the misfortune of sharing borders with her. Importantly, with Zargosh defeated, Demeria now controlled the critical Narrow Pass, a strait connecting the Inner Sea with the Eastern Waters. Once plagued by pirates and raiders, Demeria enforced law and established trade routes that made use of the strait. She used this advantage to full effect, controlling commerce between the two regions by imposing tariffs to all ships that used the Narrow Pass. In the process of doing so, her treasury’s coffers begun to swell with gold, thus allowing an even more effective enforcement of the sanctions, in a self-perpetuating cycle that gave rise to what is known today as the Demerian Empire.
Demeria used its early successes to build a military machine that was unprecedented in terms of effectiveness. While historians disagree as to the most important reason for the civilization’s rise to dominance, all acknowledge that its military might played a major role. Building on General Crassus’ victories, Demeria treated its soldiers in a manner that was unique throughout the Inner Sea kingdoms. Rather than using its infantry as fodder, Demeria values every soldier as a precious commodity and investment. In prosperous times, each soldier is well-paid, and his salary is scaled according to skill, experience and perceived risk. Demerian soldiers spend countless hours training and practicing and they are indoctrinated to the Demerian ideals of valor, might, discipline, glory, self-sacrifice and total victory at all costs. By accepting men from all walks of life and treating them as equals, Demerian officers actively encourage soldiers to view their units as brotherhoods and extended families. Moreover, by allowing soldiers to pay for their own gear, when they can afford it, Demeria has amassed the most well-equipped, battle-ready army in the entire continent. This radical approach is not limited to its treatment of individual soldiers, but also extends to units and philosophy. The Demerian military is nothing if not adaptive, learning from its defeats and incorporating tactics and strategies based solely on effectiveness. The combination of these factors has resulted in it being a formidable, well-oiled war machine that is ruthless in its pursuit of utter victory.
Demeria’s military resolve has served her well, for it is only matched by her expansionism. The kingdom’s initial victories over neighboring lands served to demonstrate two important lessons to competing kingdoms. First, that it is folly to stand up against Demeria with steel and stone, for its armies are near-invincible. Second, that kingdoms which were wise enough to surrender to the fledgling empire, thus allowing Demeria to willingly annex their territories, would not only be spared of unnecessary atrocities, but would actually prosper under her benevolent rule. These lessons spread quickly throughout the Inner Sea as Demeria kept on expanding. In many cases, this reputation helped Demerians extend their rule without resorting to warfare. Instead, entire nations were brought under her influence with other ploys, such as strategical marriages or mutually beneficial treaties and trade agreements.
Today, the peoples’ view of the Empire may lie anywhere between two extremes. On the one hand, she has shown no tolerance for uprisings or attempts at independence. Kingdoms that rebel against her can expect nothing short of complete annihilation. As a result, many view Demeria as a self-serving, imperialist entity. Nevertheless, Demeria has, at the same time, shown remarkable open-mindedness towards other cultures, philosophies and non-subversive religions, seeking to assimilate all those under her rule. This is most evident in the Demerian pantheon, a veritable polyphony of divinities originating from all corners of the Empire. Its gods and goddesses are numerous beyond counting; they have many different versions and names, as they are drawn from the mythologies of every culture in the empire. Nations that have reaped the benefits brought by Demeria’s successes tend to view the Empire as a force for political stability and prosperity.
The truth is that, while one cannot deny that Demeria imposed her rule through fire and steel, she has at the same time contributed greatly to the advancement of civilization. With the advent of the Empire, the monetary system was unified. In the new system, Demeria has an extremely profitable monopoly on issuing coinage. The sovereign, the coin most commonly used in all provinces, has done a great deal in encouraging trade between her peoples. The prosperity brought on by trade has sparked an interest in ancient knowledge, and many are the scholars who have turned to the past, seeking lost wisdom in tomes written in languages long forgotten. Knowledge is treasured in Demerian culture; many Demerian libraries are repositories of hundreds of years’ worth of collective wisdom.
The governance of Demeria and its many provinces are worth special mention. Before the advent of the Demerian Empire, most kingdoms boasted some kind of monarchy or oligarchy, where individuals in positions of power concentrated all authorities to themselves. In certain cases, such kings or oligarchs served as puppets to powerful men who pulled their strings behind the screen. Demerians quickly realized that exerting and maintaining control with such a system would not be possible. They installed a new system of governance, one that is in place to this day. In this system, the principal legislative authority is the senate, an assembly of individuals that are supposed to represent every province and colony within the Empire. Of course, kingdoms that are considered barbaric or uncivilized receive no such representation; only those that are in good terms with the Empire are given seats in the senate. The senate itself is housed in the heart of the empire, where all major decisions regarding the future of Demeria are taken.
Senators from the realms given seats are elected from the kingdoms’ elite. Members of such elites are typically nobles or otherwise powerful individuals. They often originate from the remnants of whatever power structures were in place before the Demerian annexation. Demeria makes sure to stay out of the election process, so as to avoid accusations of treating its provinces as protectorates. Nevertheless, political games are often played behind the scenes, since the stakes are always high when it comes to electing senators. Of course, Demeria has ensured that she is the most well-represented country inside the senate. Collectively, Demerian senators reserve the right to veto any new legislation proposals, thus ensuring that all new laws are in favor of their kingdom.
Executive authority in the provinces is enforced by a hierarchical system of authority. Every major city is governed by a rector, a Demerian emissary that enforces law with support from a mixture of Demerian and native soldiers. The kingdom’s capital is the seat of the Master rector, who overlooks all matters of importance in the country. Small senates are also often established in the capitals of the provinces and are allowed limited legislative authorities. However, the members of the small senate mostly act as representatives of different regions within the realm.
This system of governance has been working well during most of the history of the Demerian Empire. However, cracks are beginning to appear in Demeria’s sway over her provinces. A combination of decadence and corruption in the Demerian capital, the rise of bureaucracy in the system of colonial administration and the barbarization of the military are only some of the reasons contributing to this. While some provinces remain prosperous, others are less fortunate. Their citizens are already starting to feel the effects of the Empire’s decline. Learned men are starting to question the sustainability of the current system. Demeria, who has grown morbidly obese from the annexation of lands throughout its history, is beginning to experience an increase in resentment from the poor and the oppressed. Far to the eastern horizon, in the mostly forgotten and unimportant colony of Svorinn, unrest is fermenting. The looming storm may soon cause terrible implications for Demeria’s dominion over all.