He was born in 2914 to the emperor Bura and his wife Mélnite. Bura had pushed the Curiyans out of Ctésifon, and Mélnite descended from the Dascoro dynasty, the last widely acknowledged emperors of Caďinas; Bura proudly encouraged his son to believe that he was the true heir of the ancient emperors and rightful lord of Eretald.
As a child, Ertala was said to have been fond of pointing to things— and buildings and people— and asking, "Is that mine?" His father always responded "Yes." The anecdote may be apocryphal, but it's typical of many stories told of the boy, who seemed to have no natural restraint or tact and was never encouraged to develop any.
Following what Bura understood of classical principles, Ertala was not sent to school, but educated by tutors. He was trained in sword-fighting and horsemanship; he had an aptitude for neither. He was said to be good at music, however, with a pleasing sëte (countertenor) voice.
In 2919 he was named marquis of Dalmaž, his father's title, which Bura intended to become the title of the crown prince (a departure from classical practice, which was simply to call him sadues, literally the genuine (heir); the modern Ver. sazë had become more general).
He was married in 2934 to Vaďriha, marchioness of Žrano and the best claimant to be the heiress of the Cteranei dynasty which preceded the Dascoroi. Bura felt that this solidified his new dynasty's claim to the sash. Ertala openly disdained Vaďriha and continued to consort mostly with servants and actresses, with the result that Vaďriha bore no children and eventually settled in a separate palace.
His father died in 2941, when he was 27. Ertala immediately dismissed all of his father's advisors and ministers; when there were mumblings he placed the ringleader (cont Erglavo) on trial by the Konselora, the legislature, and Erglavo was exiled.
He sent messengers to all the princes of Eretald, demanding tribute and pledges of fealty. Many were happy to oblige, since the expulsion of the Curiyans was a welcome step in the reduction of barbarian power. The lord of Verduria, Caleon, came in 2943— Ertala was particularly interested in resuming sovereignty over the Caďinorian "summer capital". Caleon had just subdued Lácatur, so his realm was larger than Ertala's and his forces battle-hardened; he had little patience for the young emperor's pretensions. He scolded him for his impertinence, returned to his city, and proclaimed himself dalu (king), ending Verduria's de jure dependence on the empire.
Ertala was incensed, and ordered his generals to attack. They informed him that this was quite impossible— the army was much too small to confront Caleon. Ertala had them executed and appointed new ones; but he took the point about his military weakness. He dedicated the resources of the state to raising and training troops and to making alliances.
Lord Andörn of Krasnaya recognized Caleon's kingship in 2944; Ertala immediately ordered his new generals to occupy Dobray. This was accomplished without incident; Andörn was deposed in favor of his adolescent son Gurënes. This made Ertala's claims look a little less overblown.
The military focus was not popular, especially with the bourgeoisie which preferred to trade rather than reclaim imperial power. However, Ertala had made it clear that there was no room for open dissent: the noble Mélicom, for instance, was executed for treason in 2947 simply for arguing for peace. Rumors circulated instead; a particularly relished one was that Ertala was impotent. Ertala's response was to forcibly return Vaďriha to his palace and sequester her until she had produced an heir; she bore a daughter, Eraclai, in 2948.
The northern campaign
It was not till 2950 that he and his new generals judged the army strong enough to move north. They had over 20,000 men, compared to Caleon's 15,000; noting the numbers, the prince of Šerian, Onmura, added his own 2000 troops to Ertala's.
The Ctésifoni army marched directly, without subterfuge or much reconnoitering; Caleon's forces were located near Ulian, in Šerian, and seemed even smaller than reports had indicated. Ertala's generals barely took time to settle and rest the troops before pressing the attack. As soon as they were committed, pushing Caleon's forces back at the cost of some disarray, Caleon's reserve force attacked from the rear and sides. Ertala's army, surrounded and panicking, was cut to pieces.
Caleon now marched south, occupying lands along the way that had allied with Ertala, and proclaiming his intention to whip Ertala "like a schoolboy". Smaller forces were hastily assembled to try to stop him, at Dobray and then Descer; Caleon plowed through them. Six months after the army had begun its march north, Caleon entered Žésifo without opposition.
Ertala administered poison to his wife and daughter and then himself. The head of the Konselora, Ticeon, brought the news to Caleon and officially surrendered the city.
Ctésifon was administered by Verduria for the next 248 years, and subject to Verdurian law. It can't be said to have been restive during this period, and the Verdurians generally took pains to respect the city's institutions and inflated sense of itself.
Though Ctésifon remains proud of Bura, Ertala has traditionally been regarded as a fool, and this has colored attitudes toward Bura's attempts to revive Caďinorian institutions, clothing, and protocol. Modern Ctésifoni rulers don't call themselves "emperor" (atabo), but "king" (eloro-- a more ancient word than dalu but far more modest than atabo), and the marquisate of Dalmaž was quietly abolished. Only a few bold nationalists have attempted to mitigate Ertala's reputation, blaming the loss at Ulian on the prince of Šerian, who as the local lord should have known the territory and the deployment of Caleon's forces. They also point out that many of Bura's widely admired architectural restorations were actually finished in Ertala's reign.
Where Ctésifon sees Ertala's fall as tragic, Verdurians tend to find it comic. He appears as a buffoon in popular literature, with a deliciously annoying combination of stupidity and arrogance.
|Preceded by: |
| Ertala |
| Succeeded by: |
Ribelgo (in 3198)