THE AGE OF THE TYRANTS
805 - 829
THE BROTHERHOOD PARTY TAKES CONTROL:
Thun Celeuos was a right-wing, authoritarian-minded soldier, of fairly low class and upbringing, who had become an officer in the Guard by a mixture of talent, hard work, personal magnetism, and making friends in the right places – particularly in the Brotherhood Party. In 805, he was 36, married for ten years, and had two sons (a daughter followed in 807). We know very little of his wife, who stayed very much in the background, nor do we hear much of the children, until they all died in 812. Celeuos had at his back the great organisation of the brotherhood Party, already semi-military; now the Guard and other military units became the "executive" arms for the Party. As we have seen, the Party had a distinct political programme, and Celeuos meticulously carried these out.
Celeuos’ first aim was to smash the organisation of the Fourth Empire, and make himself and the Party all-powerful. He made himself "Leader", announcing that for the time being he would not replace the Emperor. (In fact he crowned himself Emperor in 810. None of the later Tyrants followed suit, and Celeuos’ title is not recognised in the later Atlantean official histories of the Emperors). He suspended the Council at once, and "reconstituted" it, so that it was permanently dominated by the governing Brotherhood Party. In any case it was shorn of many of its powers, being purely advisory, and met only when Celeuos required. The Empire was actually run by a small coterie of military colleagues of Celeuos, who were given the old high-sounding Ministerial posts. The Brotherhood Party gradually spread its tentacles into all areas of government – provincial, local, the law, the Army -, and no appointments or promotions could be made without its agreement. All higher positions indeed required membership of the Party, whether in civilian or military life. Provincial Governors were appointed by the Leader, and even local government at the lowest tiers was vetted by the Party. The leadership of the Army was thoroughly overhauled, as the Brotherhood Party had always demanded, and Celeuos’ own appointees were put in as Generals, while he himself took command of the forthcoming campaigns.
He also built up a much stronger police force, which became an Internal Security Army to rival the Regular Army as the years passed – indeed after Celeuos’ time, it came to have much more prestige than the "Frontier" Army, as it would be called. This internal force succeeded in eliminating S. Empire and ethnic terrorism within a year, which was regarded as a major achievement on Celeuos’ part. On the other hand, this same force was given increased powers of surveillance over the civilian population, and more and more people were arrested for "political" crimes (talking, agitating or writing in any way contrary to the Government’s own policy). As time passed, this political terror cowed any thoughts of opposition to the regime. But in the first few years, Celeuos’ actions were generally popular, after the miasma and corruption of the end of the Fifth Empire. Celeuos carried out a number of needful reforms – improvements in the conditions of workers in factories, increased State ownership of factories, State running of Guilds, mortal legislation, proper and effective policing against crime, less political corruption, economic improvements, and military victories abroad (at first).
MILITARY COUNTER-OFFENSIVES AGAINST RABARRIEH
A major plank of Celeuos’ stated policy was a vigorous offensive in the war against Rabarrieh, and the reconquest of as much territory as possible south of the Helvengio. Above all, of course, it was the Atlantean and Yalland communities down there with which Celeuos was concerned. The army and its command were thoroughly shaken up and reorganised in 805-6, and in 806-7 Celeuos led the army in attacks into Manralia. These were at first very successful in fighting in the open country, and the Atlanteans advanced first south-west from Raihco, and then, south-east from Noehtens to Dohgash. But once the Atlanteans came up against prepared positions, such as the defences in and around towns like Dohgash, or, later, Atlaniphis, Celeuos ground to a halt. Modern rifles and cannon, coupled with the widespread use of trenches and fortifications, lent great strength to defenders, even if they were considerable inferior to their assailants. The Battle of Dohgash in March 807 lasted over a week, involving 45000 Atlanteans at the beginning, as well as armoured tanks, against 35000 Rabarrans, and ending, after both sides had been reinforced, with 75000 Atlanteans and 55000 Rabarrans. The Rabarrans defended their trenches, and later the town itself, with great tenacity, causing the Atlanteans over 12000 casualties. Modern rifles and cannon meant that the battle spread itself out over eight miles in the end. This was also the first time that the Rabarrans had fought a set-piece battle against the enemy, instead of hit-and-run, guerilla attacks, and both they and the Atlanteans were astonished by their success. Dohgash was an eventual Atlantean victory, but at Atlaniphis in 807, Celeuos was completely unable to defeat the Rabarrans, and, with his supplies under constant attack, he finally had to retire. This was the end of his offensive against the Rabarrans in Manralia, and in the end, he had regained virtually no ground other than the largely ruined city of Dohgash.
In late 807, before he called off his offensives, Celeuos formed a military alliance with "Uarilteccoth" against Rabarrieh, by promising it a share in any territorial gains made. This was a shock to Rabarrieh, which always considered "Uarilteccoth" as being within its own orbit. In 808-9, campaigns took place in the south of Yall.Thiss, led primarily by "Uarilteccoth". These were indecisive, and in 810 Celeuos agreed to a cease-fire with the Rabarrans.
CONFLICT WITH THE UGHANS
By 811, there were increasing numbers of raids by the Ughans across the Gestes, where much surreptitious support was offered by the Ughan refugee communities there. Emperor Kubli of the Ughans, in particular, was furious with the way the Atlanteans were treating Ughan communities within the Atlantean Empire. This led the Atlanteans to undertake military operations against the Ughans on both sides of the river. Celeuos persecuted the Ughans within the Empire with ever-increasing ruthlessness, as he came to see them as potentially subversive, and giving aid and succour to the enemies of the Empire. In this, he believed himself to be following the precepts of the Brotherhood Faith, which claimed that the Empire should be run for and by Atlanteans alone – other races or nations were of less importance in the scheme of things, and should be kept, by force if necessary, in a state of subjection. This belief in the ethnic superiority of the Atlanteans, which, initially, really included all the Juralic peoples, was to become more and more ferocious and intransigent under the later Tyrants.
THE "TRAGEDY" OF THUN CELEUOS’ ?
In later years, Celeuos seemed to lose his way, and certainly began to lose the trust of the more die-hard Brothers. By 810, he was aware that the efficiency of the army was rapidly declining, and at the same time, a serious plot by a coterie of Yalland and Manralian officers against Celeuos was exposed. These things persuaded Celeuos to agree to a cease-fire with the Rabarrans, and then a purge of the Army. He rooted out all non-Juralic officers, and proclaimed that henceforth only men of Juralic background could reach the upper reaches of the Army command. Units of lower-rank soldiers recruited in non-Juralic areas of the Empire were to be regularly moved around the Empire. Meanwhile the Internal Security Army was built up still further at the expense of the Frontier Army. All of this was applauded by Celeuos’ more extreme supporters. But they were shocked and angered when he partially abandoned much of it later in 811, because he thought that the Frontier Army was being totally undermined by this policy, and its quality and numbers were declining too rapidly. Then in 812, he seemed to backtrack on another side of the Brotherhood’s policy, when he declared that if the Ughan "terrorists" laid down their arms, he would grant them a degree of autonomy, and cancel some of the existing anti-ethnic discriminatory policies.
To his supporters, Celeuos had become a traitor, and modern historians have also been puzzled by his wayward actions in these years. We need to try to understand his character. In essence, Celeuos was an ordinary, patriotic, indeed nationalistic soldier, intensely conservative and traditional, and believing fully in the original Brotherhood Faith. He thought that the Fifth Empire had lost its way, and become corrupt, immoral and impotent from a military point of view. He thought, in common with many other Brothers, that "democracy" had been taken too far, that the Empire need a firm, authoritarian hand, to root out corruption, crime, Nihilist and other terrorism. It also needed to have its industries and factories sorted out, with a strong curb being applied to rich, self-indulgent industrialists. To this end, he appealed to the lower classes and workers, though without intending to give them any more rights or freedom.
However, when he put his beliefs into practice, things did not work out as intended. He produced a harsh dictatorship, and gave his more extreme lieutenants the freedom to become self-indulgent, cruel and corrupt in their turn. He put into practice anti-ethnic policies, which backfired. He tried to revitalise and reorganise the Army, but his military offensives failed in the end, and the Frontier Army became weaker than before. He tried to backpedal on some of his policies, and only attracted the ire of his more extremist followers. Morally, too, he seems a genuinely tragic figure. He aimed to tighten up public and private moral behaviour, with regard to crime, immorality and business corruption, but the general amoral malaise of the time made this impossible. Philosophy and science had led to the near collapse of traditional moral and religious beliefs and codes of conduct, and the atmosphere of the time was "do what you want". Art followed this trend, as artists now belonged to one of two schools: nationalist, that is, toadying to the regime, or art for art’s sake, in other words, an amoral aesthetic decoration of any topic or event, however crude, pointless or immoral. Celeuos thus found that his initial attempts to crack down on immorality in behaviour or art was soon widely ignored or ridiculed. Lip-service was paid to rooting out corruption in public office, or blatantly immoral sexual behaviour in life or art, but all these things in fact continued and increased in private, and later in public amongst the more powerful of the Brothers, who could be considered, as superior beings, to be allowed to behave differently from the general run of humanity. In due course, Celeuos found he had no objective support against which to fix his codes of morality, and by 811 had virtually abandoned the attempt. Indeed he was himself tragically moved along by the "Zeitgeist". While personally he remained traditionally upright in his personal life, he followed the trend for more violence and cruelty in government. His despotism led to widespread arrests of anyone who disagreed with his policies, and they were more and more often tortured before being released or executed. Brotherhood beliefs were instilled into the population at every opportunity, at school, in festivals and in art and propaganda.
Thus the tragedy of Celeuos is perhaps simply that he simply could not live up to or conscientiously carry out the beliefs and policies he supported to their logical extreme. As a result, he was to be overthrown and replaced by other, more single-minded and ruthless men. In 812, Borbar Measel, the Helvran commander of the Regular Army in the provinces of Atlantis and Tuainnatlantis, plotted a coup. He was backed by fellow Helvran officers in the Helvrieh Army. While Celeuos was in the east of Dravidieh, Borbar declared him a traitor and criminal, and inviting all other armies to join him, marched with a small force on Cennatlantis. If the main Frontier Army in the east had supported Celeuos, Borbar would have quickly been overwhelmed. But Borbar had made careful preparations, and by promising favours to the Internal Security Army, had swung much of it to his support. Moreover, he was also able to draw on a strong groundswell of opinion against Celeuos amongst Brothers. Borbar moved fast, and reached the capital, before Celeuos could react. Celeuos approached from the east, and hesitated. There was some half-hearted fighting, which Borbar won, and then, as his support began to trickle away, Celeuos lost his nerve and retreated eastwards. His supporters now completely evaporated, and his troops revolted, imprisoning him, and then handing him over to Borbar. Borbar at once personally executed him, and, as an illustration of the growing barbarity of the times, searched out and put to death every other member of his family.
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