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More notes on Esrolia & Holy Country


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Some additional posts by Jeff on FB, this time on Esrolia/Holy Country.


So we've talked about where Sartar and the Lunar Empire gets its revenues, as well as a little digression on Seshnela and Loskalm. But want to talk about rich? The Holy Country is about 3.25 million people, and its port cities are very rich from collecting taxes and tolls from merchants passing through. They are the first sea-borne source of the Pelorian exchange route, and the gold collected is used (among other things) to pay for their fleet.
From 1580-1616, much of these revenues would have been at the disposal of Belintar. Now the various cities and Sixths grab what they can, with Nochet taking the lion's share, but Rhigos and Karse both rich cities (other places like Refuge gain little as they are not on major trade routes).
So let's think what that means for the Queen of Esrolia. Not only does she have the vast agricultural resources of that land at her disposal, thanks to her position as the head of the Ernalda cult, but she also gets toll collection for every ship that comes into Nochet. Plus market fees from the largest market in Glorantha. I expect she has revenues comparable to the Prince of Sartar at the height of that dynasty, and perhaps greater (as not all trade going through Nochet goes to Peloria - much is for local consumption in Kethaela or for export elsewhere in the world). Since Esrolia doesn't maintain a large standing army (unlike say Argrath and his Praxian horde) much more of that surplus gets spent on art, spice, and other luxury goods.
So go southwest, young artist, southwest!
> in some stories, Argrath was a year husband of the Esrolian queen (who by all accounts was young and beautiful). But the Feathered Horse Queen is the sovereign of Dragon Pass, and traditionally more important in Sartarite ambitions.
> So although Esrolia is not Egypt, if you want your decadent Ptolemaic court, Nochet and its fabulously rich queens with luxuries from all over the world can give you want you want.
Part of the Holy Country includes the RIght Arm Islands. These scattered fishing villages have always been tied to the Mirrorsea Bay, and preserved the rites of appeasing the powers of the deep oceans through their close relationship with the triolini beneath the waters. The cults of Dormal, Diros, and Choralinthor make up nearly half the population, with Orlanth and Ernalda in a decidedly second tier.
Since the Opening in 1580, they now provide the shipmen for trade and warships. By Belintar's decree, they were responsible for all matters in the Holy Country, and out of it.
The islands that provide crew and captains for the fleet are expect from all taxes as long as they provide the crewmen as needed. Since the disappearance of Belintar, the city of Nochet provides most of the financing for the fleet and the islands are closely tied to Nochet.
> Remember, that blue-water transport has only existed since the equivalent of 1975. So I suspect fishing is the main way the islanders learn rowing. Which of course means, that folk typically use rowing boats on the Mirrorsea.
> So what we might imagine is that the traditional fishing boat of the Islanders is a long and narrow row boat, like a caïque. The design was a hold-over from the Second Age, with the sail removed (not really necessary or that useful on the Mirrorsea Bay given the short distances). The Islanders claim this is the boat of Diros.
> This sort of rowing vessel got modified by Dormal into a bireme with a single-square rigged sail, a bronze ram, and a sentient figurehead.
> Within a few years, Dormal figured out how to construct and man triremes and quadriremes. Fore and aft rigging allowed them to tack quickly and successfully. I wouldn't be surprised if Belintar had hexaremes built and perhaps his own ship was an even larger polyreme. I Imagine in the last two generations we've witnessed an explosion of ingenuity in ship design in the Holy Country. But instead of building fleets of hexaremes, we get a few hexaremes, a bunch of relatively inexpensive triremes, a weird catamaran with a catapult, and other strange inventions.
So despite lunar propaganda claims to the contrary the Lunar port at Corflu was a disastrous failure. Not only did it fail as an entrepôt but not a single deep water ship was ever built there.
But, you ask, what about the Lunar navy that transported lunar soldiers into the Mirrorsea for the amphibious assault on Karse in 1619? The answer to that is delicious- that was a contract with an independent naval power that the Provincial General managed to woo after 1616. Their price was absurdly high, but their down payment was affordable. If barely. Even better, their services were no longer needed after the troops arrive in Karse and so the Empire reneged on the bulk of their agreement with apparent impunity. Better still, with their new Esrolian allies they were able to force these pirates out of the Choralinthor.
After all, what does the Lunar Empire have to fear by betraying a pack of Wolf Pirates and their chief, a wood barbarian called Harrek the Berserk.
> history is often full of irony. Harrek gets that joke played on him twice.
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More notes:

About a decade ago, the Holy Country navy introduced the widespread use of ship-mounted heavy engines. However, they were foremost in expanding the size of their ships, and had already adopted the use of something similar to the Roman corvus and air elemental-dropped grapples.
The Holy Country fleet traditionally consists of 3 equally sized parts, each with its own fleet guardian spirit and practiced bands of magicians and priests. It is well organised and disciplined, and works in close cooperation with the Choralinthor merman tribes.
The fleet is uninterested in expansion, being content with handling about half the escort serves (and fees) between themselves and Handra, and all of the east-west traffic to Teshnos. Of course, the appearance of the Wolf Pirates in 1624 has made things more complicated and dangerous, and Nochet increasingly relies on increasingly large ships and its merman allies to escort merchants.
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Some more:

In thinking about the Holy Country, it is perhaps worth remembering that almost 80% of the population are Orlanthi. However, there is a decidedly Earth religion and matriarchal shade to things, as 55% of the total population are Esrolian. Although Belintar empowered each of the Sixths to preserve their spiritual and cultural identity, there is nonetheless a strong Esrolian influence through trade, literacy, and material artifacts.
Given the strong ties that Old Sartar has with the Holy Country (not the least being that Sartarite is the same language spoken in Heortland), it is not surprising that most Lunars can't distinguish a Sartarite from an Esrolian.
> Another thing to keep in mind is that Second Age Kethaela embraced the mythical synthesis movement of the God Learners, without actually being God Learners. In the Third Age, the Holy Country is arguably the bastion of the monomyth.
> Another thing to keep in mind - the Holy Country is about the same size as all of Dragon Pass, and no bigger. It is only 72 km from Nochet to Karse and 100 km from Nochet to Seapolis.
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And yet more interesting info from Jeff:

Some material facts on Esrolia that I think are of importance. Esrolia is perhaps the most densely settled and intensely cultivated area in the world. It has 1.78 million people in an area smaller than Sartar, so basically imagine ten Sartars in one place. Or another comparison - it has about three times the population of the Silver Shadow and about the same area (even taking in account the empty space of the Crater).
Pretty much everyone agrees that the great goddess Ernalda lives there. As do Asrelia, Ty Kora Tek, and Babeester Gor. Places like Necropolis or Asrelia's Retreat are great temples for what elsewhere are very minor goddesses.
But more than anything, this is a place of intense agriculture. Every 4 kilometers there's a village between the fields and orchards. Except with the Sacred Ground and atop Thorab's Hill, there are no wilds, no wastes, no places untouched by humans - just fields, orchards, and villages, with the occasional urban area. It takes a lot of grain to feed nearly 2 million people, but Esrolia not only produces it, but enough to export. And since the Ernalda temples own the land, imagine how rich they are! And no wonder this is the center of the Lhankor Mhy cult - imagine how many scribes are employed keeping track of taxes of grain and other bounties of the goddess!
> For those who are trying to figure out the scale, it is about 45 km from Necropolis to Nochet.
Nochet has a population of 100k+ and covers some 600 hectares, so it has got about 175 people per hectare, which means people are crowded in. There are also plenty of animals - pigs, cows, and sheep, chickens and geese, snakes, lizards, the occasional crocodile, etc. And even though the city is rich, by modern standards most people are poor and live as clients and supplicants of temples, noble houses, criminal gangs, etc. The city is disorganised and seemingly anarchic. If a temple or noble house wants to do something, it does it. The queen mediates conflicts between the powerful, and sometimes looks after the poor. The queen is the high priestess of the Earth Goddess and rarely involves herself in administering more than the resources of her temple. The temples of various husband-gods have power and influence, and respect the authority of the Earth Goddess but little else.
Things functioned more efficiently under Belintar's reign, when the God-King could reveal the aspirations of Queen Merngala and bring the divine world (and its ideals) in contact with our own. Belintar could bring forth the Jolly Fat Man and announce a wondrous new festival of drink and pleasure. But the God-King has been gone nearly a decade and the young queen has more worldly ambitions. And the Red Earth, the Warm Earth, and Old Earth factions have not disappeared - they seek power, with or without the young queen.
> As for the Mirrorsea Bay - keep in mind how tranquil and beautiful it is. This isn't the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, or the North Atlantic! The waters probably have a mean sea temperature of around 20 C or something like that. You can go into the water year round and in summer, the water is really pleasant. The amazingly clear blue waters have kelp forests and corral reefs where merfolk hunt and play. There are schools of colourful fish, endless flocks of waterfowl, and more. Combine that with the temperatures for Esrolia, and it sounds so nice, I want to buy a vacation home there.
Nochet is rich from many sources. Its queen is the head of the Ernalda cult in Esrolia (more or less) and has vast surpluses of grain and other produce. But it is also the center of maritime trade in the world. The Opening of the Seas took place during the lifetime of many inhabitants - it is as far in the past as 1975 is to us. The largest numbers of skilled human sailors in the world are present here - only the Wolf Pirates compare in numbers and experience (their numbers are less, but their experience may be even greater). Ships travel from Nochet to Kralorela, Loskalm, Fonrit, and the East Isles. Nochet even has a "colony" in Teshnos!
Here's where silk comes into central Genertela, about 10-15 tons a year comes in. Maybe half stays in the Holy Country, the rest is carried on caravans that go through Dragon Pass and is taken to the Lunar Heartlands. Maybe 4 tons a year of silk ends up in Furthest. Of course that means it is probably easier to get silk in Boldhome than in Glamour, just as it was easier to get silk in Alexandria than in Rome.
> Yes, the Red Haired Caravan also brings silk into the Lunar Heartlands, probably another 2 tons a year. And I think that silk is considered "higher status" than the stuff from the Holy Country. Ironically, the stuff the Red Haired Caravan brings is from the Kingdom of Ignorance, while the stuff that comes into Nochet is from Teshnos and Kralorela proper, so go figure.
Total Nochet human population by cultural group
Esrolian 60000
Sartarites 20000
Other Holy Country 6000
Westerners 4000
Teshnites 4000
Kralorelans 2000
Fonritians 2000
Other 2000
> Keep in mind that there are a LOT of Lhankor Mhy initiates in Esrolia. There are thousands in Nochet alone.
> And look how close rivals Nochet and Rhigos are. Only 20 km away. We are talking about half the distance between Tyre and Sidon (which were also rivals). Clearly a good case of familiarity breeds contempt!
> the Earth Goddess owns the land. Therefore the earth temples determine who gets use of the land. It is as simple as that.
> Handra is important as a major market and naval power, closely allied to the Holy Country. Fleets of Handrite ships are occasional hired to travel further than past their usual Ramalian outposts to protect against the pirates of Alatan.
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If the Mirrorsea Bay maintains about 20°C year around, how did the Windstop work out on its shores and islands? Would that warm water cause a steady fog shrouding the bay?

Telling how it is excessive verbis


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1 hour ago, Joerg said:

If the Mirrorsea Bay maintains about 20°C year around, how did the Windstop work out on its shores and islands? Would that warm water cause a steady fog shrouding the bay?

That seems like a reasonable effect.  The edges and marshes may have been iced over, but otherwise open water.  If it got heavily fogged, some may have thought the Closing had returned.

I figure the fishers along the coast may have best survived the Windstop as they could still get food from the sea.  Many refugees from inland probably came to the coastal cities in hope of food.

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On 6/19/2021 at 8:07 AM, jajagappa said:

the Earth Goddess owns the land. Therefore the earth temples determine who gets use of the land. It is as simple as that.

I find this quite misleading in its use of the word ‘simple’. While true, it doesn’t mean that the control and use and profit from the land in Esrolia isn’t subject to Byzantine and vicious politics and incredibly complex bureaucracy, but that all of takes place (at least in theory) within the Earth temples. Who include a hugely complex pantheon, at least ten or so major goddesses and literally thousands of minor ones (many of whom may turn up in person and have their own opinions, such as nymphs such as oreads or limoniads, and possibly be deeply embedded in the politics (such as heroic ancestors of various noble houses)). Especially in the current environment, with Esrolia on the brink of civil war between three factions that are all essentially factions within the Earth cults, arguing about their choice of allies. 
But yes, it’s the Earth temples that are in charge. In Esrolia, that’s a bit like saying ‘politics is simple, it’s the people with the power who make the decisions’. 

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2 hours ago, davecake said:

I find this quite misleading in its use of the word ‘simple’. While true, it doesn’t mean that the control and use and profit from the land in Esrolia isn’t subject to Byzantine and vicious politics and incredibly complex bureaucracy

What I think it helps to do, though, is differentiate it from our RW perspective of individual people or families or noble leaders owning (or inheriting) the land.  If Harmast becomes Thane of Apple Lane, he doesn't get to dispose of the land to his children - the land is still controlled and disposed of by the Earth Temple.  And it makes us think about what this means in terms of clan politics - e.g. despite recent leadership by the Taraling among the Colymar, it's the Ernaldoring who still control the land (and likely purse strings).

Particularly in Esrolia, but also in Dragon Pass, the Earth temples' land control means they are the ultimate arbiters of who gets to farm or graze what land, and where the tribute and grain goes.  And a lot of clan politics is going to be focused on getting their important figures up to the top of the Earth temple hierarchy where they can influence the disposition of the land.  Of course this means "vicious" intra- or inter-temple politics and byzantine efforts to maintain control by leveraging the LM and Issaries temples.

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