Yesterday we had The Asavean Archipelagol; today its the turn of the Sumaah Republic. The second in a short series summarising the relations between the Empire and the foreign powers.
You can find the video here. This time I made it with the camera balanced on a solid surface rather than held in my hand, but I seem to have activated some sort of motion tracking feature that means it will still make people seasick. Oh well. Iterative improvement – its the PeeDee way!
Again, the script is not 100% the same as the words said but its close enough for jazz.
The second nation in this short series – the Sumaah Republic,.
Like Asavea, it lies far to the west of the Empire.
It is the cleric in the adventuring party of the great foreign nations.
Its theme is righteous zeal; its visual influence is central- and southern-america; its language family is that which Wikipedia labels “north Germanic” which we might call “scandinavian” – danish, swedish, norwegian among others.
Sumaah is a world power, an ambitious, proud, vibrant nation that is guided at all levels by fervent belief in the teachings of the Way. Their ultimate goal is to convert every human to the Way, and to stamp out all spiritual beliefs that they consider counter to doctrine. They have been at war with their neighbours for centuries – slowly but surely expanding their Republic through conquest.
That absolute commitment to the way is perhaps the biggest sources of friction between the Sumaah Republic and the Empire. Nothing divides two people like a shared religion, after all.
Before I get into recent history, I’m going to give you a short overview of the nation. Then we’ll get to what this means on the field.
The land of Sumaah is hot, and steamy, full of jungles, and dinosaurs, grand temples, and sprawling pyramid-cities.
Long ago, it was rued by despotic kings supported by a selfish and idolatrous religion and propped up by the satraps of the Asavean Archipelago.
Yet hidden beneath the surface were the seeds of rebellion. Visitors from what would become the Empire found hints of a philosophy very similar to that which underlay their own understanding of the Way, and by sharing their own insights with the unhappy populace they ignited a revolution that saw the kings torn down, the idolatrous temples destroyed, and the satraps sent fleeing back to Asavea with their tails between their legs.
Sick of the excesses of their corrupt leaders, the people enthusiastically embraced the teachings of the Way. This shared faith lead to close ties between Sumaah and the nations of the Bay of Catazar – and eventually with the Empire.
At least at first.
The people of the far-away nation had no interest in joining the Empire, and were denied a place in the imperial Synod – not that they wanted one. Interpretations of Ambition and Pride taught the Summah that looking outside their borders for political or spiritual guidance would be unvirtuous.
This all came to a head in the reign of Empress Anaea; the Republic broke away from the Imperial Synod and excommunicated not only the Throne but all the priests of the Empire. For the next two hundred years, the Republic was technically at war with the Sumaah – but the vast distances involved meant that military conflict was effectively impossible.
In the reign of Empress Mariika, the conflict between Sumaah and the Empire was resolved and trade once again flourished. By that time, the Sumaah had established their own Houses of Virtue, which they considered to be equal in power to the Assemblies of the Imperial Synod.
The Synod, needless to say, disagreed – but as long as discussions were kept away from religious matters, relations between the two nations remained cordial.
The Republic Today
The Sumaah are lead by the House of the People which meets in the grand capital city of Timoj. The representatives are elected by the people, and rule on behalf of the electorate. In practice, Sumaah is a theocracy in all but name however. The Praaaster of the Way have an unlimited ability to veto the decisions of the House of the People in the name of virtue, and regularly advise the representatitves as to the most virtuous courses of action.
The influence of the Houses of Virtue is felt everywhere. While the government creates the law, it is enforced by the religiously appointed Censors under the guidance of the House of Vigilance.
The armies are effectively lead by the House of Courage, while the House of Wisdom is responsible for educating the young and ensuring all written works are truthful.
The House of Loyalty ensures that all elections are scrupulously honest and that all representatives are truly reflecting the wishes of the people who appointed them, while the House of Ambition works tirelessly to help citizens achieve their greatest potential in service to the nation and the House of Prosperity ensures that not only are all citizens clothed, housed, and well fed but that trade within Sumaah and without is conducted in as virtuous a manner as possible.
Finally, the House of Pride enacts foreign policy – a role that includes orchestrating the strategies for the nations crusades aginst the unbeliever nations that surround them.
Imperial scholars believe over the last 400 years the Sumaah have completely absorbed as many as five smaller human nations, converting them to the Way and making them part of the Republic whether the liked it or not.
The only nation they cannot destroy, it seems, is the one they would most like to bring down – the Asavean Archipelago. The Summah despise the Asaveans – both for historic wrongs done to their people when the Asaveans controlled their nation and because everything about their society infuriates and angers the Sumaah. They are heretical blasphemous idolatrous tyrants, in the words of the Sumaah.
While its easy to dismiss the Sumaah as being a facist theocracy, it is a little more subtle than that. The praaaster are motivated by a genuine concern for the spiritual welbeing of their people – and priests who abuse their powers face extremely harsh punishments by their peers. While they appear dour when they visit the Empire, at home they are as exuberant and passionate as the people of the Brass Coast, as fascinated by learning as the Urizen, and as proud of their nation and their people as the most glorious Dawnish troubadour.
The True Way
The Sumaah follow the Way. It’s the only philosophy tolearated in their nation. They share the same doctrines and virtues as the Empire, but where they are distinct is in their absolute intolerance of heresy and blasphemy.
Having decided the Way is correct, they have come to the conclusion that all other beliefs must logically be incorrect – worse that they are dangerous distractions from the virtuous life that all humans should follow.
The Sumaah Synod – the Houses of Virtue – is much more powerful and influential than the Imperial Synod, especially the House of the Way which possesses many of the qualities the Empire would associate with the General Assembly.
It is often surprising to Imperial vitistors that legal powers which in the Empire would rest with the military council, conclave, bourse, or even Senate instead rest with one of the Houses of Virtue.
There are no national assemblies – Sumaah is a single vast sprawling nation after all. The closest one gets are small regional gatherings of priests who discuss judgements and hear criminal cases and the like – under the auspices of the Houses of Virtue.
The Republic is the largest producer of Liao outside of the Empire, although the recipe they use differs from that familiar to their Imperial counterparts. Vinum does not grow well in the steaming jungles of Sumaah and their liao is created from an entirely different plant more suited to the tropical climate – but it is functionally identical in all other respects to that used by Imperial priests. The Sumaah sell their surplus liao to visiting merchants – not only from the Empire but also from the commonwealth, Sarcophjan Republic, and even the Jarmish – although the merchants of that latter nation must now look elsewhere following the Summah embrace of the liberaty pact.0-
War with the Empire
At the end of 379YE the Sumaah Republic delacred war on the Empire after a little over a century of relative peace. They denounced the Imperial Synod as a den of heretics, exiled Imperial citizens in Sumaah lands, and closed the port of Zemeh to Imperial traders.
One of the main reasons given was repeated insults to the Pride of the Sumaah people, especially with regard to the slow progress on an embassy to their nation. Other factors most likely included the at-that-time reasonably good relations with their enemies, the Asavean Archipelago; a number of miscommunications around matters of religion; and the Imperial Synod’s recognition of the first non-human exemplar.
As with the previous war, the conflict was not military in nature. Rather, the Sumaah sent missionaries to other nations where followers of the Way were to be found, denouncing the Imperial Synod as having lost the Way at every turn and creating diplomatic difficulties wherever they could.
The Empire, for its part, did not make a declaration of war of its own – which predictably served to make the Sumaah even more angry.
In Autumn 380YE, the situation became even more complicated. The Imperial Crown – a symbol of Imperial Pridea nd Ambition that had been worn by every Throne since Giovanni – was removed from the Empire by one Guillamo de Tassato of the Printer’s Guild and taken to Sumaah, apparently for safekeeping. As a consequence Imperatric Lisabetta became the first Throne in history not to wear the Imperial Crown.
The Empire for its part largely dismissed the matter of the Imperial Crown – at least in public – which predictably made the Sumaah even more angry.
Then, with little fanfare, the Sumaah declared an end to the war during the Summer solstice 382Ye, following a steady increase in diplomatic relations. They set in motion plans to re-open Zemeh to Imperial traders, and sent diplomats to inhabit the Sumaah embassy in Necropolis.
That is not to say that they changed their mind about the Imperial Synod. Far from it.
Rather they continued to claim that the priests of the Empire lack the courage of their convictions; that they have sacrificed their spiritual mandate in the service of expediency and selfish political gain. They urged pilgrims across the known world to look to the houses of virtue, not the Imperal synod, for guidane.
They even went so far as to send Sumaah missionaries to the Empire, to openly preach the idea that it is Timoj, not Bastion, that is the true heart of the faith.
Furthermore, the Sumaah still have the Imperial crown, and show no signs of returning it any time soon – claiming they will do so only once the Empire has demonstrated a true commitment to the virtues and doctrines of the Way.
The Tarquinius Problem
During the Summer Solstice 382YE, at the same time as they were delivering the news that the Sumaah had ended their war with the Empire, the emissaries of the Republic excommunicated the Imperial Ambassador to Axos, Tarquinius of Ankarien.
Not only did they announce a writ of excomminication, they then proceeded to enact the liao ceremony of the same name, spilling a significant amount of rich purple liao over the floor of the Senate building before continuing with their formal delegation.
Whatever reasons the Houses of Virtue may have had for taking such a bold step are not common knowledge. Regardless, the Imperial Synod eventually vindicated Tarquinius, and repaired the damage done to Tarquinius’ soul.
Still, this incident demonstrated the growing chasm between Timoj and Basion. The Synod was condemned their Sumaah counterparts for using a writ of excommunication in this fashion, but the Houses of Virtue appear to have simply ignored their criticism.
THE LIBERTY PACT
In some ways, peace with the Sumaah was barely distinguishable from war with the Summah.
Everything changed in the winter of 382YE when, along with the Empire, the Commonwealth, and the Citadels of Axos, the Sumaah signed the Liberty Pact.
The pact created an alliance between the signatories, dedicated to the destruction of the institution of slavery throughout the known world.
The pact required sanctions against nations identified as slavers – but the Sumaah went further, placing full embargos on trade with any nation that keeps slaves including Asavea, Jarm, and presumably smaller nations such as the Iron Confederacy.
But! There is one other problem with the Liberty Pact and that is the matter of orcs.
The Orc Problem
For the last fifty years or so, one of the key problems the Sumaah republic has with the Empire is their treatment of nonhumans.
Historically, the Sumaah simply killed any non human they came into contact with. They did not practice slavery, but they also believed that nonhumans were a threat to human destiny.
Following the orc rebellion, the Empire allowed the Imperial Orc nation to be formed and treated its members as equal citizens. The Sumaah might have been able to tolerate that – after all they tolerate the Commonwealth which also has orc citizens – but then the Commonwealth does not claim to follow the Way.
The problem is all tangled up with the doctrines of reincarnation and human destiny, and with the definition of idolatry. The Sumaah calim that by allowing orcs to be pilgrims of the Way, to be priests and cardinals, and to hold Imperial titles that gave them authority over human citizens, the Empire is committing idolatry. They are exalting nonhuman creatues above human creatures.
The final straw came in early 379YE when the Synod recognised an orc as an exemplar of Ambition – the former slave Thrace, the leader of the orc rebellion. It is probably no coincidence that the Sumaah declared war on the Empire a mere six months later.
Then Bonewall Rek and Bonewall Cole made everything worse – or perhaps better – by successfully convincing the Imperial Synod to recognise the spiritual nature of orcs by adopting the Doctrines of the Ancestor and the Howling Abyss.
For the first time, Sumaah and Imperial doctrine was completely out of step – and the cause was the Empire’s “exaltation” of nonhumans.
The Sumaah response was unexpected.
They sent one of their praaaaster to Anvil, to bring Bonewall Rek and Bonewall Cole to inquisition. A month later the Houses of Sumaah recognised that there was virtue in the two orcs – but they did not Accept the two new doctrines.
Since then, the Orc Question has continued to vex the Sumaah and cause friction with the Empire. The situation has been exacerbated by the Liberty Pact – which effectively puts orcs on the same level as humans at least as far as slavery is concerned.
For the Sumaah this only makes sense if one views orcs as being capable of being virtuous in the same way as humans.
If Orcs are genuinely capable of virtue, does that then mean they can be part of the Way or not? If they can then the Sumaah will presumably need to offer the same opportunities to convert to the true faith that are offered to their human enemies. Which means they will have to recognise orcs as citizens of the Republic. Which seems at odds with the idea that “humans are the greatest of all beings in creation “
Today, the houses are still divided.
Visitors such as Bonewall Rek or Imperial Orc traders are accorded a modicum of respect but they are not allowed to preach, or undertake any priestly duties. The Sumaah still refute the existance of orc exemplars and paragons, but they have at least laid out the roots of their problem to their fellows in the Empire – and to be honest it is clear that the same concerns the Sumaah have are echoed in some parts of the Empire.
The Sumaah Schism
Finally we come to the big one. I said at the start that nothing divides Sumaah and the Empire like their shared religon, and over the last couple of years that has become more and more obvious… and now the crisis point has been reached.
When the Sumaah sent their missionaries to the Empire it brought the friction between the two nations to a head.
After much debate, at the end of last year the Synod supported Jorma Steelhail of Wintermark in enacting a mandate that urged the citizens of the Empire and the Republic alike to seek common ground and focus on their shared Ambition in spreading the Way to the world.
In response to this mandate, the Houses of Virtue resolved that it would recognise no changes of doctrine and no new paragons and exemplars until the conflict with the Empire had been resolved – or for the next year. The Empire followed suit. Both nations committed to the idea of a symposium to at least discuss whether there was some basis for a shared understanding of the faith or whether it was time for the Sumaah and the Imperial priesthoods to go their seperate ways.
One of the first things the Sumaah did was to lay out what they see as the five fundamental issues separating the two faiths.
Their first complaint is that the Empire enacts changes of doctrine without considering the opinion of other priests of the Way. If Timoj and Bastion are to be considered equals, then neither the Sumaah nor the Empire may unilaterally decide to change the basic foundation of their shared faith.
This has been reflected most recently in the two new doctrines the Imperial Synod recognised – Ancestors and Howlign Abyss. While they agree the doctines appear sound in isolation, they claim that the Empire has failed to properly consider the wider implications.
It’s not clear whether the Sumaah mean that doctrinal changes should be discussed by both the Imperial Synod and the Houses of Virtue – or whether they are arguing that every priest of the Way regardless of where in the world they live should have a say.
The Empire appears to lack commitment to the idea that the Way is the only true faith. They compromise constantly with false religions, tolerate those who espouse false virtues, and appear extremely inconsistent on their treatment of malign spiritual powers.
The Sumaah accept that understanding of virtue and the human spirit is incomplete, and that the faithful should strive constantly to improve that understanding but without a commitment to orthodoxy there can be no concord. What the Empire and Sumaah allegedly share is a common understanding of doctrine and a commitment to it – without that there is nothing to discuss.
This seems to be at the heart of the accusations that the Synod has abandoned true virtue in pursuit of political convenience.
Being too tolerant of false religions is an accusation that has been thrown around by the Sumaah repeatedly – they refused to attend the Symposium of Revelation in 380YE because the Empire allowed priests and followers of religions other than the Way to attend, for example. But it also has political implications – Imperial toleration of the Asavean gods and the existance of the Temple of Balo and the Black Bull in Feroz are a clear bone of contention with the praaaster of Sumaah.
The third concern revolves around a differing opinion of the importance of paragons and exemplars.
While some are known in both nations – Tian, Korl, Atun, Zemress and the like – others are unique to the Republic, and many Imperial paragons and exemplars are not recognised in Sumaah at all.
The Empire does not have an exhaustive list of Sumaah paragons and exemplars but it is believed that there are far fewer of these inspirational figures that are familiar to Imperial priests.
In Summah, a significant emphasis is placed on the role of paragons and exemplars as figures who bot only inspire pilgrims, but also as guides who help the faithful to make virtuous decisions. Exhaustive investigation of all potential inspirations is undertaken, and those who do not meet the highest standards are not recognised by the houses of virtue.
The recognition of not one but two orcs as exemplars, before the question of whether this is idolatry or not has been entirely resolved, is just one example of the conflict between the Sumaan and Imperial atttudes.
The Sumaah also appear critical of the sheer number of inspirations – and seem to harbour a perhaps understandable suspicion that the Empire is as influenced by politics as mmuch of virtue when it comes to recognising new exemplars and paragons.
If the Sumaah and the Empire are to be equal, then the role of inspirational figures in the Way must be discussed and settled once and for all.
The Sumaah and the Empire have diverged in their understanding of the virtues.
In particular, the Sumaah are concerned that Imperial priests insist on attempting to tell the faithful who they should be loyal to, or chastise them for insufficient loyalty when they act in a way the priest does not approve of.
The Imperial Loyalty Assembly has recently taken steps of its own to reiterate its understanding of this virtue, and to its commitment to the idea that loyalty comes from within rather than being imposed without. There are surely other ways in which Sumaah and Imperial understanding of thevirtues differ, each of which must be addressed if a satisfactory conclusion is to be reached.
FIFTH – Orcs Again
Finally, as I mentioned above, the role of orcs in the Way must be resolved.
The Empire has blithely allowed them to lead congregations, even going so far as to recognise one as a cardinal. Yet their own doctrine – the Doctrine of the Howling Abyss and the Doctrine of the Ancestors – recognises that orc souls are entirely different from human souls. By exalting orcs, by putting them in a position of authority over humans, then by strict reading of doctrine the Empire has been guilty of idolatry for the last fifty years. The orc question must be answered if Jorma Steelhail’s call for understanding is to have any hope of success.
The Empire has moved in concert with the Sumaah, toward a symposium during the coming Winter Solstice. It will address the relationship between Timoj and Bastion – between the priests of Sumaah and their Imperial counterparts – once and for all.
Its difficult to say what the outcome wil be – but it seems clear that something mus change. The two nations cannot continue as they are now. With both being part of a the Liberty pact, it is to be hoped that some accord may be reached.
That’s Sumaah then. A nation far too Ambitious, Wise, Courageous, Vigilant, Prosperous, Loyal, and above all Proud to ever really get along with the Empire.
I hope you’ve found this video useful – and that I’ve not missed anything obvious.
You can find further details of everything I’ve mentioned here on the main Empire Wiki. A good place to start is anything that is tagged “Trade Winds” and find the section headed “Sumaah Republic”
Next time I’ll be covering the Sacrophan Delves – the nicest ruthless capitalists you could hope to meet. Until then – go with virtue.