Skouras

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SKOURAS

Skouras [ˈskow ɽas] proper comprises the valley of the Šinour. To its west lie Edinel and Xengiman; to the east is Feináe, and to the south is the Šurantal, the Skourene Sea, and its littoral.

The Skourenes

Origins

In our earliest records Šinour was inhabited by the Mei, who also introduced agriculture to the region, based primarily on oats and rye. Around -150, however, the country was taken over by the Lenani-Littoral people who would give it its name-- the Skourenes. Their language was Old Skourene.

The Lenani-Littoral people in general were divided into clans, which were matrilocal and matrilineal (that is, husbands joined their wife's clan, and inheritance was through the female line), and worshipped paired male and female gods. This is a social system which facilitates the men travelling much of the year, whether for hunting, war, trade; wealth was entrusted to the women because they stayed in one place.

The Skourene city-state

The genius of the Skourene people proved to be cities; the larger cities seem to have developed out of the exigencies of the invasion, for security, control of subjugated peoples, and the stockpiling of tribute.

Spurred by Jei trade, the Skourenes developed depots and outposts to accumulate goods for the Jei visits and they became settlements as they traded Jei goods to the interior; soon they learned to supplement the imports with local imitations. By 6 ZE these settlements evolved into the cities of the Šinour delta: Iṭili, Engidori, and Imuṭeli.

Skourenes believed in leadership by a council of important men; their states were oligarchies, controlled from a capital city. Three of the four capitals were quite near each other, strung out along the Šinour; Guṭḷeli was the first fruits of an aggressive program of exploration by sea.

In the 100s, colonies were started on the upper Skouras (Miligenḍi, Gasibor, Ṭisuram) and the littoral (Guṭḷeli, Meŋeland, Ageşoram). The typical Skourene polity was a city-state (ṭreta) run by a Senate composed of the leaders of its chief clans, and dominating a rural hinterland. They were focussed on (perhaps obsessed with) trade, quick to pick up innovations (e.g. writing, acquired from the Ezičimi), and possessed unusual social mobility. (Or to put it another way, they lacked the elements that in other societies held back both social mobility and broad-based prosperity: royal monopolies, guild and caste restrictions, military over-commitments).

When the Skourene conquest of the Littoral was nearly complete, they had already proved their genius for urban republicanism and for commerce. Their governmental ideal was a free city, whose senate (an evolution from the military council of earlier days), was composed of wealthy or venerable men, and governed by consensus. The cities of the lower Šinour can be said to approximate the ideal.

These cities served as the basis for colonization of the Littoral, and the colonies tended to retain a political attachment to their home cities.

The flip side of these advantages was that Skouras never really mastered political integration above the city-state level. The ṭrota fought many a war, with a bewildering, shifting set of alliances, forming leagues and empires; Imuṭeli has gone beyond this, taking over its rival Guṭḷeli and building itself a little empire and begun drubbing from its neighbors (295). But a Skourene's chief loyalties were always to his city and his clan-- the superordinate levels remained abstractions.

Disunity caused other practical problems, such as dialect differences, and the use of no less than seven distinct writing systems.

Attempts at empire

With the rise of great empires in Xengiman, many Skourenes felt that unity was required in the face of foreign threats. Guṭleli in the 700s and Meŋeland in the 800s attempted to build Skourene empires, but their increasing power alarmed the other cities, which allied to defeat them. The new empire of Axunai did invade Skouras, in 885; the city of Kuḷiŋibor used the Axunemi threat to organize the Muḍureg or Mudric Confederacy. Though the Confederacy did fight off Axunai, its largest operation was the conquest of Guṭḷeli and Miligenḍi (930-38), which gave the Confederacy rule over the lion's share of Skourene territory-- the high water mark for any Skourene state. However, other cities began to resent what they saw as Kuliŋibori greed and arrogance, especially as the foreign threats seemed to recede, and the Confederacy collapsed into civil war, in the 970s.

This may be taken as the start of a dark age in Skouras. The Axunemi enforced low prices for foreign traders across their empire, which led to a depression in trade; the institutions of city life had become rigid and conservative; the Skourene technological edge was only barely maintained; and deforestation caused an ecological collapse which weakened the cities of the littoral.

Vitality returned in the 1300s, helped by trade with independent Čeiy-- an Axunemi country that acted more like a Skourene state. The greatest triumph was the discovery of Arcél, by traders from Kolatimand, in the 1400s. Besides acquiring enough Uytainese gold to cause severe inflation, the most lasting effect of this trade was the introduction of millet, a hardy crop which thrived in the cold, damp littoral, and helped protect against erosion.

The most powerful players were now Peligi, in the southern littoral, and Gurdago, a Skourene colony in far-off Luduyn. These jockeyed for position and fought several wars, in the face of a new threat from the north-- the Tžuro, now uniting under a brash and aggressive new religion, Jippirasti. The Tžuro conquered Papliopagimi, the northernmost Skourene state, in 1630, and then Ṭisuram.

There was a brief lull while the Tžuro conquered Munkhâsh; then they returned. The Skourene cities were strong, and had the advantage of sea power, it took nearly half a century to achieve the final victory, from 1684 to 1725. Even so, the far southern tip of the littoral remained in Skourene hands, as well as Gurdago.

Tžuro Skouras

The Kurundasti Tej

The Tžuro conquest was brutal. More than one city was punished for resistance by having its Senate and its remaining soldiers murdered and its walls and temples razed; the city of Imuṭeli was razed to the ground after a revolt and the survivors relocated to Engidori, now renamed Jippirim; Skourene clans were dispossessed from estates and mansions, and their wealth plundered.

The ateje of the Kurundasti Tej soon figured out that this destructive policy would simply dry up the stream of wealth; they were helped to this realization both by their own clerics (Jippir had promised war booty, but not ongoing theft) and by Skourene converts. They put merchants and manufacturers under their protection (and taxation— reduced for converts) and regularized land tenure, which ended the expropriations. In 1785 a new advisory senate (mafali) was created, which converts could join.

The first ateje were nomadic warlords, and made sure that their sons grew up on the steppes. Their immediate successors moved easily between the warhorse and the counting house, but later ateje, raised in Jippirim, grew out of touch with the steppe. The nomads back home resented the attention paid to peasants and pagans, as well as the softness and luxury of the ruling class; finally they revolted, in 1875, forming the Buručandi Tej. In a theocratic state, it was almost inevitable that the rebellion would take the form of a religious schism; the ostensible cause was a Kurundasti program to ban clan totems.

The Kurundasti continued to claim the religious leadership of all Jippirasti; this was partially vindicated by the revolt of the Lenani against the heretic Buručandi. The new Naraji Tej accepted the spiritual but not the temporal authority of the Kurundasti. The Kurundasti repressed any attempt to dilute or modify the teachings of Babur; even theological study was unacceptable. The literature of the time consisted mostly of exhortations, prophecies, and hagiography.

In secular affairs, however, they were pragmatic and even progressive. In many ways Skouras benefitted from the shakeup of the invasion. Sclerotic old rules and rulers were tossed out; new ideas and new enterprises were welcomed. Trade with Čeiy and the Axunemi lands flourished. Central rule eliminated inter-city rivalries and tariffs, as well as the problem of competing scripts. Great advances were made in alchemy (including the invention of distillation) and medicine.

During this period, the cities were largely Jippirasti and Tžuro-speaking, while the countryside retained Skourene gods and dialects.

In the 2100s the Tej began to decline. The economy fell into depression, perhaps due to disruptions in the region following the Sainor conquest of half of Xengiman; the country suffered under a corrupt and lackluster series of ateje. The Namal was lost, and Feináe separated as the Buŋkavi Tej.

The problem of the next century was Tokruji, which expanded under its great general Žigral to conquer almost all of the eastern steppes and mountains; the Kurundasti Tej was reduced to the heartland of Skouras.

The Anajati Tej

In 2375, a revolution ousted the Kurundasti, instituting the Anajati Tej. The new government of the atej Barutra beat back Tokruji, reconquering Upper Skouras, and in the 2460s absorbing the Buŋkavi Tej.

The Anajati abandoned the anxious conservativism of the Kurundasti; they embraced subtle theology, and tolerated ecstatic and mystical forms of Jippirasti that would have shocked their predecessors. They also rediscovered Skourene and Axunašin literature, translating much of it into Tžuro and adding commentaries and speculation of their own.

It was a difficult time to be a liberal state, however. The Gelyet conquered most of Xengiman, while the Sainor took the rest, and even pushed into the Ediri mountains to the west. Even Čeiy declined; and the Uṭandal to the south were united for the first time since the Tžuro conquest, under the leadership of Čisra.

As the Sainor and Uṭandal grew stronger, Lower Skouras girded for war; Upper Skouras pressed for union with the Lenani; Feináe, remote from the fighting, saw no need for change. In the early 2500s the country split along these lines; the north became a new Šinouri Tej; Feináe remained loyal to the Anajati; and Lower Skouras was taken over by an aristocratic clique, which took turns as ajjos (ruler). Their state is known simply as Jippirim.

The Čisran Empire succeeded in capturing Dusilim in 2601— theoretically the first step in the liberation of Skouras for the Skourenes. Only there were no Skourenes any more; the people of Dusilim considered themselves Tžuro and Jippirasti, and refused to cooperate with their liberators. The Čisrans tried to pursue the war, but soon enough took the path of least resistance and expanded into Mnau instead. A century later they were conquered by the new empire of Xurno, which relieved the pressure on Jippirim.

The Sainor conquest

The respite was short: the Sainor, pressed hard by the Xurnese, invaded and conquered Jippirim (2790-5). This was an inversion of the order of things, pagans ruling Jippirasti, and the Tžuro mounted one rebellion after another. The Sainor retaliated with a reign of terror, brutal enough that the Tžuro settled into a sullen passivity.

The free Tžuro states continued the struggle intermittently, and finally, in 2940, succeeded in recapturing Ičili— just 30 km downstream from Jippirim, but on the other side of the river, which both protected it and made an assault on Jippirim difficult. From here, though, it was possible to mount raids against the Sainor, who of course mounted counter-raids as well. The rest of the seacoast was liberated by midcentury, and in 2988 Dusila, Ičili, and Šurantal liberated Jippirim. By 3000 the lower Šinour was back in Tžuro hands.

The Burmiji Tej, a strong new Lenani empire, attacked the Sainor from the north, eventually splitting them into westerners (Losainor) and easterners (Disainor). In 3010, as a last desperate measure to legitimize their rule, the Disainor converted to Jippirasti. The Tžuro continued their pressure, and the Disainor found it expedient to conquer Feináe (and forcibly convert the Fei).

Modern Šura

For more on the modern kingdom, see Šura.

In 3162 Helu, king of Dusila, and Janei, queen of Pajimi, married, creating a united kingdom simply called Skouras, or Šura. In 3172 the kingdom conquered Ičili. And in 3179 both ajjosu died, leaving a six-year-old heir, Apač; the mafali (Senate) declared itself collectively to be his guardian. Overnight, the government had become a republic, with a figurehead monarch. (Apač never contested this arrangement, but his own son Fudru did, and was deposed for his trouble.)

That settled the question of who didn’t rule; there was still the question of who did. Did the oligarchs simply collude among themselves? Would one of them become the ruler, and under what conditions? Should the model be republican Čeiy, or Revaudo Xurno? In the end the republican solution won out, simply because more absolute or more radical systems did not have enough support. The Senate was elected by the important families of the realm— over the centuries the franchise was increasingly extended, till today almost all of the middle class can vote. It elects a Trustee (ažraŋ) who administers the government.

Šura is one of the richest and most progressive states of southern Ereláe, along with Čeiy and Belšai. Its version of Jippirasti is almost unrecognizable to the Lenani, who retain a purer, more zealous faith. It is friendly to the northern powers and open to ideas such as the scientific method— though there is some resentment as well... why do these pagan states have such overwheming power and knowledge?

In the 3200s Šura occupied the city-state of Baburali, and in 3370 it absorbed Šurantal.

Etymology: Tžuro Šura, Uṭandal Sxuras, Old Skourene Skouras, from Skinor, the Šinour; Ax. Kouraz, X. Kuras, Ṭeôši Kuräs, Ver. Šura.

See also