When the Xengi delta was overrun by the Ezičimi, in about -250, much of the nobility founded new estates along the Jei; the peasantry was partly refugees from the delta and partly native Wede:i from the river valley.
Early on the Jei became known for trade. Their ships were shore-huggers, but sufficient to explore the coast from Luduyn to Mnau. One of their richest discoveries was the Čiqay river, itself a notable source of gold, and a base for exporting minerals and precious stones from the great Diqun Bormai mountains nearby. (The actual mining was done by elcari, who came to the Čiqay to sell to men.)
The Jei were the first, but by no means the last, to pursue an aggressive form of trade not much different from colonization. A trading consortium known as the Taŋgun (‘the men of the Thirty-Six’— more approximate a label than it sounds, as Wede:i used a base-6 number system) built trading posts along the river; these soon became fortresses, and by 1 ZE, seats of government.
Jei ships, hugging the shore, reached Skouras at about the same time, trading Jei manufactures for gold, wool, hides, and grapefruit. This tenuous link was enough to spur quick development among the Skourenes, and trade continually grew, although the region was much too far away for the Jei to build fortresses or even to winter over.
Although there was at first a single paźiwa, there was no central administration; the king was essentially the general chosen to lead the Jei armies against the Ezičimi. As the Ezičimi splintered into small kingdoms, the threat of invasion receded, and the office was forgotten. The Jei political units were essentially cities, with strong relationships between nobles in different cities, formed by commerce or by colonization.
The Jei Union
In 177, the cities of Yaujina:n and Boruŋdau came under the rule of a single family. This began a series of dynastic unions (and a few brief wars), as cities worried that united rivals could freeze them out of trading relationships. By 228 there were just three states: Taŋgun, Na:iworman (‘Greater Na:iwor’, essentially the Jei valley except for its mouth), and Jeinizun (on the Jei delta, and also dominating the coast to the west, now known as Jeiwor ‘west Jei’. In that year Na:iworman and Taŋgun were united, and in 250 these united with Jeinizun, forming the Jeiboruŋ or Jei Union.
Governance was still local— indeed, much of Jei territory was technically run by local chiefs under Jei protection, though the Jei enjoyed extraterritoriality, dominated the economy, and prohibited trade with other states. However, the union allowed a surer defense and an even more aggressive foreign policy. Early on, for instance, the union was able to push the Ezičimi back to the hills separating the Jei and Xengi basins.
Between 390-420, the union extended its control over the interior. Shipbuilding technology improved as well; Jei triremes could now brave the open ocean, and for a century or so the Jei dominated trade in the entire south, from Luduyn to Feináe. Again, rich or convenient spots were effectively annexed: the mouth of the Lux river in the Šaxun; the Ezičimi city of Tannevi in the Tanel peninsula; several islands off the coast of Mnau. In the 500s they added the western coast of Mnau, and started colonizing Jecuor.
As the political and commercial center of the Union, Jeinizun became a metropolis, with a population of at least 60,000; other notable cities were Na:iwor and Boruŋdau along the Jei, Do:nai and Mo:mor on the coast, and Wa:ior on the Čiqay.
In the 600s, ascendancy at sea passed to the Skourenes, whose ships were larger, and— as a few bloody conflicts showed— more suited for war. The Jei were forced to allow Skourene ships to trade in Jei ports. They at least felt strong enough to keep Jeinizun off limits; ironically, this policy only weakened the capital, and gave new prominence to the ports of Jeiwor.
In 702 Axuna, the richest and most populous of the Ezičimi states, under the nive Urizbeliš, went to war against the Union, and captured Jeinizun. This left the prince of Mo:mor, Toma:un, the sovereign of the Jei.
Tomau:n set himself the task of not only recovering Jeinizun— which was done by 705— but sweeping the Ezičimi out of the ancient Wede:i lands entirely. He took the opportunity to increase the cohesion of the Union, abolishing many local chieftainships, unifying legal codes, and establishing the primacy of the monarch over the entire nation. The center of power shifted from the Jei to Jeor.
- For the further history of the Jei, see Jeor.