THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF THE THIRD EMPIRE
Ruthopheax I forced Atlantean society into a class structure far more rigid and watertight than anything ever seen before. His main aims were to ensure the unchallenged rule of himself and his class, which was that of the "Squires" ("Thaisonix"), the country gentry who had defeated the Republicans and conquered the Empire from all the other pretenders. His way of doing this was to virtually enslave all the population belonging to the lower classes, and in particular to wall in the cities which had formerly been the main support of the Republicans. That is to say, the inhabitants of these cities were not allowed to move or work outside the bounds of their towns. This was chiefly true of 12 of the cities in the formerly Republican areas of the Empire - these were Atlantis, Noehtens, Ygohe, Yfeale, Celinge, Nosinge, Runnates, Tilrase, Helvris, Cennetis, Cennis and Sirottis. (There were one or two others temporarily in this position, as well). A popular phrase of the period was: Thisaggix aithen rottiurgeso tontun dammiyettuyu (i.e. "Cities are the source of all evil".)
Finally he made sure this system worked by employing a large Internal Security Army, and forcing everybody to belong to the church of State Theism whose priesthood was completely under Imperial control. ("Saindeyu daonatta", literally "Religion of the State" was the term for State Theism. Earlier, and again after 750, it was just known as "Theism", or "Daonatta". The usual Atlantean word for "Religion" in general was "Daithehettu", which also meant a church. The phrase for the "Official Religion" was "Liclebba").
Possession of land was the chief distinction between the new landed, ruling nobility, and the"rest". The old class system was re-established, and the top two Classes were the new ruling elite. Class 3 existed in two forms, rural and urban. The rural Class 3s were utterly distinct from the urban Class 3s, who lived and had to stay in towns. Classes 4 and 5 were also poorer workers in the towns, while Class 6s were again either urban employees, or rural peasantry, utterly beholden to their masters, and unable to move from their service. The urban population was vetted closely by Imperial police and the State Theist priests, who reported directly to the government. The Army was officered by Squires, usually Class 2s, and manned by Class 5s and 6s. It was a wholly professional and volunteer force after the death of Ruthopheax I, and was always fully manned, because it represented the only way, in this period, that lowly entrants could, by means of promotion, work their way up to the highest ranks, which gave them automatic higher Class status.
After the 680s, there was a gradual loosening of the social controls. Land and class could be awarded by the Emperor for meritorious service, for the first time. Later, Class 6 peasantry were able to move to towns, as landowners could not always now afford to retain them. More and more Class anomalies appeared, and after 693, Class divisions were no longer used as the basis of position or for taxation - everyone was either rural or urban, and had to possess a land certificate to prove the former. Over the next 20 years, towns grew richer at the expense of the countryside, and the Imperial government was gradually forced to relax its hatred of urban life, a hangover from the wars of the first half of the century, when all large towns were seen by the Imperialists as the dwelling-places of Republicans and rebels. Indeed, Class 3 rural land magnates now started dabbling in business within towns. Similarly, after about 715, Class 3 and 4 town-dwellers bought land in the countryside, which was now tolerated, and became country-based businessmen of Class 3. These Class 3s, who began to have fingers in both country and town pies, were called "hybrid" Class 3s. Everyone was now showing more interest in the opportunities offered by the towns, where the new "Industrial Revolution" was beginning to take off. By the time the Great Continental War approached in 743, Class 3 and 4 urbans had become the equals or betters of the old rural aristocracy, as far as wealth was concerned, but they had no political influence to match it.
The change in attitude towards the towns was shown by the alteration made to the phrase quoted above, that cities are the source of all evil. After 725, it was said: Thisaggix aithen rottiurgeso tontan plemetteyu. ("Towns are the source of all prosperity.)
IMPERIAL GOVERNMENT DURING THE THIRD EMPIRE
After the establishment of the Republic in parts of the former Empire, society and government became very different in the two parts of Atlantis. We have already seen the changes brought about by the Republicans; while the Imperialists preserved a fossilised version of the old second Empire. This all changed after 630, when Louron Ruthopheax crushed the Republic, and took over the old Empire. We have seen, too, how he ruthlessly crushed all remnants of the old Republican regime, and imposed a new type of authoritarian government, run by the rural upper classes, called "Squires", on the whole Empire, backed up by the State Theist religion, to which all citizens had to conform.
Imperial government was led by the Emperor and six Imperial Officers of State with very grand names: The Chief Imperial Adviser, Imperial Treasurer, Imperial Minister of War, Imperial Minister for Foreign Affairs, Imperial Minister for the Provinces (i.e. Home Affairs), and Imperial Minister of Civil Law. There were also two "ex officio" ministers, the Chief imperial Loyalist and the Chief Minister of the Imperial Faith. The Emperor himself wielded virtually dictatorial powers throughout the whole of the Third Empire. In contrast to the Second Empire, there was no Council to regulate his rule, and no written constitution like that of Atlaniphon I, which defined the role and powers of the Emperor, the Governors and the Controllers. All that existed were the "Terms of Empire", a guide to running the Empire, written by Ruthopheax I as he neared death for the guidance of his son. This outlined the administration set up by Ruthopheax I in the 640s and 650s, and it essentially remained in force for the next 100 years. The "Terms" became increasingly outdated and rigid as society changed, and in fact small changes had constantly to be made, though unofficially.
LOCAL AND PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT - THE REIGN OF THE COUNTRY SQUIRES
Ruthopheax reduced the original 15-20 provinces of the Empire to 12 much larger ones, and gave the governorships either to relatives or military comrades-in-arms. Under the later Emperors, these Provinces would normally be run by members of the rich landed gentry. The Provinces were divided into many smaller Counties, run by rural councils, presided over by the local magnate or Squire. No town, other than Cennatlantis, the capital, was self-ruling, and townspeople (Classes 4 and 5 and many Class 3s) had virtually no governmental responsibilities. Some of the Provincial Governors in the formerly Republican Provinces behaved quite outrageously in the early years of the Third Empire, ruling dictatorially, and behaving with great cruelty towards the inhabitants of the towns, in particular. As these Governors, who were originally army generals from the war years of the 630s to the 660s died or were gradually replaced by younger men, such deliberate viciousness became less common, and was in any case not tolerated by Emperor Ruthopheax III.
All Provincial and County Councils had Imperial representatives to check and control them. These people, like most other ambitious men in government, belonged to an elite group called Imperial Loyalists. These Loyalists had to be completely loyal to the Emperor and the ruling elite, to attend regular meetings, be regular churchgoers, and pay additional taxes for their privileges. The ruling elite itself, the country Squires and their subordinates, sprang overwhelmingly from the east: from Dravidieh, Vulcanieh, Meistayieh, and were often old Atlantean colonist families. Local government remained predominantly in the hands of the squirearchy throughout the whole of the Third Empire, although the "hybrid" Class 3s gradually gained more power. After 721 the centre of local government in counties which contained a large town was transferred deliberately to that town, and by the 740s, power in urban areas like Atlantis and the large towns on the Helvengio was in the hands of the hybrid Class 3s - though nowhere else.
To read the next part of this history, click on Government and Society- (3)750 - 890
Home Page Government and Society- (3)750 - 890