International entanglements: Luron Iustacin, 762 – 768
A medallion of Luron Iustacin
GROWING ASSERTION OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTERS
Iustacin proved himself to be an able administrator, as his uncle had hoped, but he had increasingly to assert himself against his Ministers and the Council. His Ministers were chosen, according to the constitution, by the Emperor and the other Ministers, but increasingly these Ministers, and especially the Chief Minister, took over both the appointment of new members of the Government, and its administration. Iustacin maintained his authority during his short reign, but he had to listen to more and more arguments on all subjects. This was especially the case with foreign policy, where both Ministers and the Council were split between pacifists or non-interventionists on the one hand, and imperialists or interventionists on the other. The latter gained the upper hand in this period, and as the Council appointed the Provincial Governors, they too usually reflected the views of the dominant party in the Council. Over the next couple of decades, foreign and internal policy fluctuated depending on the balance of power in the government. By the 780s, a real "party" style of government had developed, and the Emperor seemed to be becoming first a sort of President, and later a mere figurehead.
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES AND ADVENTURES
Iustacin was initially keen to continue an idea of his uncle, which was to set up International Conferences ("Intisainduyix Buohuatsix" in Atlantean) of the "Great Powers", which would settle amicably any international crises or quarrels which arose. However, he was not an imperialist, and the military interventions of the later part of his reign were imposed on him by his Ministers and the Council. In 763, the first International Conference was instituted, involving all the major Powers. Its main aims were to try to settle the problem of the Basquec Civil War, which had begun in 761, and censor or prevent such unilateral action as the recent invasion of Anauren by Skallandieh. In fact, such action in Basquecieh was undermined by some of the participants intervening themselves in the Civil War, to protect or increase their own interests, although they claimed at the internationally that they were protecting the Basquecs. The Conference agreed finally to intervene jointly against any nation invading another, or to halt a civil war. As a result, nations near Basquecieh gradually sent more and more forces into that country to fight on behalf of whichever clique their government favoured
In 764, Atlantean forces entered semi-independent Razira, and in 765, they crossed into Basquec territory, supporting the previous civilian government. Rabarran armies had been fighting since 763, and various small states to the east of Basquecieh were also embroiled. In all cases, distances and terrain made co-ordinated operations difficult. The intervening armies were quite small, and operations there tended to be most effective with fast-moving cavalry forces. By and large, the interventionists supported different sides in the war, and managed not to come to blows with each other – or at least, any such fights were not publicised. It is interesting to note the increasing use of steam-power by the Atlanteans and Rabarrans for supply, mostly using ships on the waterways.
SOCIETY AND THE ARTS – THE REVOLT AGAINST THIRD EMPIRE STANDARDS
The Fourth Empire was gradually exhibiting a growing difference from all previous epochs. One material reason was simply because of the growth of industrialisation. From the 760s onwards, all the roads in the Empire were changed and improved to allow the running of steam transport. Later railways also appeared. A plethora of manufactured goods also dramatically changed the lifestyle of all the inhabitants of the Empire.
But social and moral changes were equally important. During the 760s, society in general finally threw off the constraints of Third Empire standards and codes of behaviour. Originally, reaction against the conservatism, authoritarianism and religious orthodoxy of the early Third Empire had begun in secret and quietly before the start of the Great Continental War. It was in any case limited at this stage to some of the Squires, and a small number of artists and thinkers. The War shook up the whole of society, and gradually in the 750s, standards of behaviour and morals became looser and freer. By the 760s, this was spreading to all corners of society, and personal morals were much laxer. This was noticeable, above all, in the way sexual behaviour became freer – divorces were much more common, extra-marital affairs more open, and disapproval of any of this was increasingly muted. This was reflected by Iustacin himself, who married three times, and was very promiscuous in his private life, though this was kept fairly well hidden till after his death.
As the grip of the Squires and State Theism was loosened after 750, agnosticism and interest in other religions, especially Naturism, became mush more prevalent. The overall ethos of society became materialistic, particularly as far as the arts, science and philosophy were concerned. Industrialization, and the discoveries of science and technology, encouraged a rejection of idealistic views of the world and of humankind, and an interest in psychological explanations for human behaviour. This was reflected in art, as much as anywhere else. Drama and the novel were increasingly driven by psychological and sexual themes, and the novel in particular, became the pre-eminent artform of the period. Novelists were more and more daring in the topics they dealt with, and concentrated on realism and psychological truth. The archetypal novelist of the time was Fembeye, between about 735 and 775. He led the way in making novels realistic and comprehensive of all levels of society. The next generation is represented by Cettien, from the 760s till his death in 795. He was a taboo-breaker, and moved from the realism of the 760s and 770s, to the "shocking" sensationalism which became popular after the 780s. Throughout this time, too, the visual arts followed suit, and became above all realistic.
THE END OF THE REIGN
Iustacin’s many personal liaisons resulted in a plethora of children, from whom his successor could be chosen. The Succession Committee was stymied for some time, and Iustacin himself favoured one of his older sons, who was imperialist-minded, and wanted to reassert the role of the Emperor. The Committee, led by the Chief Minister, preferred, in the end, more of a nonentity, who could be moulded to the will of others. They overruled Iustacin and settled on another nephew of Thildoyon, who was a retiring, religious-minded country squire, Creholos Tuolden. This description alone shows how out of touch he was likely to be with the new mood of the Empire. Some of the Council – the more conservative ones -, hoped his piety and conservative morals would help to counteract what they saw as the increasing immorality of the age. They had to be careful how they put this, of course, without seeming to criticise Iustacin too directly. The more liberal or forward-looking members of the Committee assumed Tuolden would just be a figurehead, whose beliefs and attitudes they could ignore. Iustacin would not give in, but by 767 he was suddenly incapacitated by illness, and in 768, at the age of only 38, died of a sexual disease. The illness had been present for some years, but after 767 it suddenly got worse. As a result, Tuolden was unable to stand out any longer against the Committee’s decision, and agreed to their nomination late in 767, when he was so ill, that he was probably unaware of what he was doing.
A model of the sky-scraper-like architecture which began to appear in towns after the 780s
"A figurehead Emperor?": Creholos Tuolden, 768 – 781
THE CHIEF MINISTER AND THE "PARTY SYSTEM" TAKE OVER
It was during the reign of Tuolden that the position of the Emperor sank almost to that of a figurehead, largely due to Tuolden’s own retiring and self-obsessed character. The Council and particularly the Chief Minister really did come to run the Empire. Tuolden did not so much lose the imperial prerogatives – they were still there in the constitution -, as cause them to atrophy through lack of use. So new Imperial Ministers were now chosen by the Chief Minister and his colleagues, who then simply informed the Emperor. The Chief Minister himself was chosen now by convention from the Council, rather than by the choice of the Emperor. The Emperor’s Imperial Advisers were increasingly absent from Ministerial discussions, and became the personal coterie of the Emperor, who were involved in his personal interests, but hardly in the running of the country.
At the same time, the Council was becoming permanently split on "party" lines. That is to say, a number of semi-permanent groupings of Councilmen grew up, separated by their differing opinions on internal and foreign affairs. This development reflected the fact that candidates for Council elections came from District level, that is, the most local level, where they were more strongly – and democratically- influenced by local concerns. This After the 780s, other "party" issues also intruded – ethnic feeling, the demands of the (trades) Guilds, and by the 790s, military and nationalist interests, and the Brotherhood Party.
CHANGING ATTITUDES TOWARDS FOREIGN POLICY
After 768, a more pacifist policy dominated foreign affairs, partly due to Tuolden’s personal inclinations (which still meant something at this stage), and partly due to party changes within the Council. Atlantean military involvement in the Basquec Civil War ended in 768, conceding victory to a faction supported by Rabarrieh. This faction shared many of the Rabarrans’ beliefs, and over the next few years, the Rabarran religion and style of government spread throughout Basquecieh. After 776, the country renamed itself "Uaruilttecchoth" or "Country of Great Rivers", transliterated into Atlantean as "Uarilteccoth". An International Conference held in 769 produced agreement by all parties to permanently quit Basquecieh. After 772, however, there is another reversal of policy within Atlantis, and, overriding or ignoring Tuolden’s pacifism, the Ministers and a majority of the Council agree to intervene in the recent Ughan Civil War. It will be recalled that after the end of the Continental War, Ughrieh was split into three separate kingdoms, one under Atlantean hegemony, one under Skalland influence, and the third one relatively independent. After 770, these three countries began fighting amongst themselves, and also to throw off the control of Atlantis and Skallandieh. At the 773 4th International Conference, the participants agreed to "settle" the Ughan fighting by intervention, both to prevent one country defeating the other two and taking over Ughrieh, and to preserve some influence themselves. Skallandieh sent in an army early in 773, Atlantis followed in 774, and the Basquecs joined in 775. Forces from the east also crossed the borders at the same time. As a result, the war became a complete quagmire after 775, and, as with the Basquec War in the 760s, all the armies were too small, and the country too large, for any one party to come out on top. The terrain, though, was much more mountainous, and the roads much poorer than in Basquecieh, and all the forces found quick movement very difficult. Cavalry had little effect, and infantry forces, many now armed with the new magazine rifle, soon became bogged down in static positions and sieges, as manoeuvres and frontal attacks were extremely expensive.
By 780, the financial and military losses had mounted so high as to cause the government yet again to change its policy. Already in 779, the Basquecs had pulled out. In 781, the Atlanteans also withdrew, and the Skallands finally followed in 785. They left behind an exhausted and wasted country, full of homeless civilians and refugees, many of whom had been fleeing across the river Gestes into Atlantean territory for years. Ughrieh itself collapsed into a multitude of little territories, ruled by local warlords, which generally fiercely resisted any outside influence. Localised fighting between these warlords became endemic for the next twenty years, sending more floods of refugees across the Gestes, or north or southwards. Some form of peaceful coexistence between about seven or eight larger Ughan states finally settled over this unhappy country after 805.
THE GREAT ABDICATION CRISIS
Tuolden was by nature an introspective and retiring man, tall, dark and stooping. He never married, and in fact seemed uninterested in sexual liaisons of any sort. His greatest passions were religious and moral, and initially he tried to project his beliefs in pacifism and harmonious living on to the life of the Empire at large. But he was easily cowed by argument, and soon reverted to personal and introspective studies, sometimes joined by just a small group of close friends. His increasing interest in religion led directly to the Great Abdication Crisis of 780-1.
Tuolden, though initially an orthodox believer in Theism, gradually developed an interest in and attraction to Naturism, with its optimistic belief in the teachings and saintly life of its founder, in reincarnation, and its creed of oneness of man and the natural world. Now by this time, the "official" religion of Theism, the "depoliticised" version of Third Empire State Theism, was seen as old-fashioned and irrelevant to many people. Many had turned to more exotic religions, including Naturism, or to astrology, or more philosophical beliefs. Many others had given up on religion altogether, professing agnosticism or outright atheism, which seemed more suited to the technological and materialistic ethos of the age. Tuolden thought that Naturism represented a positive statement for life, which would counter the meaningless formalism of Theism, the pointlessness of agnosticism, the pessimism of most contemporary philosophy and the facile banality of superstition and astrology. He expressed such opinions at length in his voluminous memoirs, and his sometimes moving poetry, which came to light after his death. Finally, in 778, he officially "converted" to Naturism.
Now in the agnostic and undogmatic climate of the times, this might not have been expected to cause a crisis. But according to the constitution, while all religions were tolerated, including atheism, the State Religion, as professed by the Emperor and high officials, and used in state ceremonies, had to be Theism. Partly for party political reasons, and partly as a rearguard action by the old-guard dogmatic conservatives, who had supported Tuolden for Emperor in the first place, a crisis was cooked up. This was then fanned by the now influential newspaper press, different parts of which were supported by differing political factions. Many people, including some Ministers and many Councilmen were personally quite tolerant or agnostic, and bore all necessary state Theist ceremonials with cynicism or disinterest, but were dragged unwillingly into supporting obstinately one side or the other in this manufactured crisis. So after much argument, Tuolden was told that he would have to either abandon his new faith, or forfeit the throne. Sensible voices arguing for changing the constitution to allow tolerance of Imperial religious belief were quashed at this time. (However, only four years later, under a new Empress, it would be agreed that the Emperor could adopt Naturism, if he wished, as long as he also took part in the relevant state theist ceremonies as a formality. The whole crisis seemed pointless to contemporaries, as if it had come from another, earlier epoch, when religion was more a matter of life and death. We can compare it in modern times to the British Abdication crisis of 1936, which also depended on beliefs about marriage and divorce, which were already old-fashioned). Tuolden hung on through 780, and then, in 781, hating argument and personal recriminations, abdicated in early 781. He retired to Helvrieh, and led a life of contemplation and writing until his death at the age of 76 in 802.
A FEMALE SUCCESSOR
As the price of agreeing to abdicate, Tuolden forced Lirinne Sifone on the Succession Committee as his successor. Lirinne was in fact personally agnostic, liberal and artistically minded, and so was also popular with liberal politicians, who in any case thought that she would be another "figurehead" head of state, content to mind her own business. Tuolden saw her as someone who held cultured, pacifist and internationalist views, and he appreciated her non-political nature, and indeed, that she would be only the third Empress in Atlantean history, for he held strongly that both sexes should have equal opportunities to rise to the top. He seems to have tacitly ignored her liberal and agnostic views, so different to his own. The only opposition came from those conservatives, who had supported Tuolden, and then engineered his abdication. However, there was something of a national reaction against them after the Abdication Crisis, and in any case, their power was rapidly waning – the next two regimes were notable for their "liberal" feel. They were ultimately outmanoeuvered by Lirinne, who diplomatically announced her "official" adherence to Theism before her accession, though with the proviso that she would work to rescind the "Theism or abdicate" law of the constitution.
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