Author Topic: How does an empire emerge?  (Read 2696 times)

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Offline Johnnyfirs

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How does an empire emerge?
« on: December 05, 2014, 05:45:35 PM »
+1
Hello my beloved ones.
I'm currently starting a novel project as a hobby-thing because I have a lot of free time currently.

I'd like to build a faction that will, in time, become an empire. I thought it would be interesting to actually capture that transition within the book's timespan, instead of starting off with an already established empire.

So what is an empire before an empire?
What would I call the faction before reaching that threshold?

Thank you.
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Offline HESKEYTIME

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2014, 06:11:34 PM »
+2
Hello my beloved ones.
I'm currently starting a novel project as a hobby-thing because I have a lot of free time currently.

I'd like to build a faction that will, in time, become an empire. I thought it would be interesting to actually capture that transition within the book's timespan, instead of starting off with an already established empire.

So what is an empire before an empire?
What would I call the faction before reaching that threshold?

Thank you.

Guess it can start as anything, the Roman Empire began as a Roman Republic. The British Empire had the United Kingdom/Kingdom of England and Wales at it's heart with the colonial territories forming it's empire.

Depends, before it's an empire do you want a Monarch? A democracy? After the Empire is formed to you envisage an emperor or monarch?

Kingdoms or Republics (if you want a kingless democracy as the starting point) would be the norm i guess but it depends on your setting, also i'm probably just being lazy and failing to remember lots of alternatives. Of course as a work of pure fiction you can call it whatever you want, not just a 'kingdom' or 'republic', but ultimately it may come down to what you envisage preceding this Empire and what direction you expect this Empire to take.

And what sort of transition are you anticipating? A faction that claims additional land through conquest and imperialism, thus establishing their Empire? Or a faction that undergoes a purely political transformation and becomes an Empire?
« Last Edit: December 05, 2014, 06:33:46 PM by HESKEYTIME »
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Offline Johnnyfirs

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2014, 07:17:40 PM »
0
Depends, before it's an empire do you want a Monarch? A democracy? After the Empire is formed to you envisage an emperor or monarch?

Not too sure yet, I'm still on the drafting board with this empire. I'm thinking an emperor, but the idea of a sort of council (republic-ish) is actually intriguing and then there's some obvious opportunities for some political intrigues.

And what sort of transition are you anticipating? A faction that claims additional land through conquest and imperialism, thus establishing their Empire? Or a faction that undergoes a purely political transformation and becomes an Empire?
Conquest, definitely.

Thanks for shedding some light on it. I felt stupid asking because I guess it's a pretty straight forward answer, but you know... It's important to get it right and not to mention I needed some inspiration for the origins of this faction - something to play with  :D
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Offline HESKEYTIME

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2014, 08:55:43 PM »
+1
Not too sure yet, I'm still on the drafting board with this empire. I'm thinking an emperor, but the idea of a sort of council (republic-ish) is actually intriguing and then there's some obvious opportunities for some political intrigues.
Conquest, definitely.

Thanks for shedding some light on it. I felt stupid asking because I guess it's a pretty straight forward answer, but you know... It's important to get it right and not to mention I needed some inspiration for the origins of this faction - something to play with  :D

Well i suck at storywriting, but if you're at early days with a concept sometimes it can help to have someone ask you the obvious questions because it helps you put flesh on your ideas.

If you were thinking more down the line of a council (democratically elected is optional ofc), an obvious parallel to research would be the transition of the Roman Republic to Empire. Although that was purely political as the Republic already owned huge swathes of land enough to be considered 'an empire' in terms of it's global power, but not in terms of it's political structure.

If conquest to make a unified nation is something that interests you, again the Romans are a good example to study and you may want to think in terms of conquered territories becoming 'provinces' with regional governors. Or the colonial governors of the British colonial territories. Again important things to consider would be the question of identity within those areas, would they be occupied territories or would they be willing citizens of this empire, how would they view themselves?

Many countries today also have origin stories that rely on fractured warring kingdoms and tribes finally coming together under common leadership and learning to view themselves as one 'country/nation/kingdom'. Perhaps some of these can be sources of inspiration for the formation of an empire through military conquest, but also propaganda and more subtle methods and claims to convince the populace to see themselves as part of something larger. Eg. Before England could form as a single Kingdom the two major powers had to find a ruler they could agree on, similarly the natural succession of the Scottish and English royal lines brought those two monarchies together to be one. Every large political entity that we see today as a kingdom or nation was at some time something much smaller, it is in how these small fragmented and frequently hostile factions came together peacefully in the end, that we can understand how larger unions form. I dont know what country you're from, but i'm sure you'll have a story like this.
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Offline Johnnyfirs

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2014, 06:57:17 AM »
0
How a nation would see itself in terms of this foreign empire, I guess, comes down to how strong it already is. I mean, smaller nations with no chance of defeating an invasion might as well willingly join and save the ressources and casualties of war, whereas stronger nations which already got something going for them might think differently. I don't know if you can put it like that?
I think tho I might stick to a sole emperor, but perhaps he's overthrowing an existing council in the transition from republic to empire. Lots of stuff to play with here for sure.

Oh and a vital question. Why does an empire want to conquer nations and expand through the sword? I mean 'power' is definitely the keyword here but to make an interesting faction I gotta have some more here. Trade alliances with conquered nations? Wealth? An ideology within the empire they believe to be the right one for the world?

I'm from Denmark by the way.
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Offline HESKEYTIME

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2014, 01:38:28 PM »
+2
How a nation would see itself in terms of this foreign empire, I guess, comes down to how strong it already is. I mean, smaller nations with no chance of defeating an invasion might as well willingly join and save the ressources and casualties of war, whereas stronger nations which already got something going for them might think differently. I don't know if you can put it like that?
I think tho I might stick to a sole emperor, but perhaps he's overthrowing an existing council in the transition from republic to empire. Lots of stuff to play with here for sure.

Oh and a vital question. Why does an empire want to conquer nations and expand through the sword? I mean 'power' is definitely the keyword here but to make an interesting faction I gotta have some more here. Trade alliances with conquered nations? Wealth? An ideology within the empire they believe to be the right one for the world?

I'm from Denmark by the way.

Smaller nations may fight back, even if they cannot win. Or they may continue to resist afterwards. Usually when it's successful there's some sort of incentive to remain loyal, like giving senior people from that nation power and wealth and prestige, making the conquered people aspire to be like him, rather than resist.

Loot and plunder can be taken through military victory. But generally military expansion comes down to land and income. The Roman Empire had a tax system in place. Simplified immensely; the tax would fund the legions, the legions would conquer more land, more land = more income through taxation, which means more legions. When the Roman world stopped expanding, and placed hard frontiers on their land, they began to run into more issues than in their expansive glory days, when they began to lose or abandon land that meant less tax, less money to support the legions in a time of crisis.

Similarly, in most warrior cultures like the Anglo-Saxons or other Germanic peoples, a warrior would serve a lord and expect their share of the plunder. But equally, the incentive was that after their service they would be given land to live on with their family for the remainder of their life. A generous lord with a lot of land could attract a great number of warriors to their service, and because land-rites did not last longer than that one life, there was a healthy circulation of land. Taking more land basically meant you could support more active warriors and afford to be generous with your warriors who retired. Also of course you still benefit from the crops and production of those lands, to hep you financially. Again, the Roman world has similar, after your 25 years of service if you were a non-Roman citizen you were granted citizenship and land-rites - this was a major incentive for non-Romans to enlist to serve the Roman military as auxiliaries.

Fun fact about land grants to soldiers. The Saxon Kingdom of 'Northumbria' was once the strongest in Britain, and had the most land, it could attract a large number of warriors from all over Britain as they had land to offer. In that period men would not just serve the kingdom of their birth, but often the most powerful or generous lord they could find. But in the 8th Century they ran into crisis, as they had been granting so much land to the Church, as permanent grants (rather than just temporary grants for one warrior's lifetime), they ended up with large portions of the country that they could not offer as reward for the service of warriors, and that meant they could not get sufficient warriors to sustain such a large kingdom. Bede was a monk in the 7th-8th century, he lived in a monastry and was very pro-church ofc, but he was also practical, and even though he wrote in a time when Northumbria was strong, he forsaw that these permanent grants of land to the church would harm the Kingdoms future... which it did.

In short, certainly wealth and military might. More land gives you more of both. But there can be other reasons too, either an ideology to spread, or even an ideology that this Empire must spread 'civilization' to the rest of the world. Or even the Emperor may conquer to show the people of his own Empire that he is powerful and can provide for them, certainly if an Emperor has a weak claim or lack of support in their own lands they might consider expansion as a way to win favour with the masses within the Empire. Weak rulers look for ways to show their power, certainly. If in your story he had recently overthrown a council and changed the political structure of his nation you might expect unrest and unhappiness directed towards this Emperor, this may prompt him to launch an expansive campaign to win favour with the people.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2014, 01:45:52 PM by HESKEYTIME »
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Offline Osiris

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2014, 03:24:49 PM »
+1
Quote
Why does an empire want to conquer nations and expand through the sword? I mean 'power' is definitely the keyword here but to make an interesting faction I gotta have some more here. Trade alliances with conquered nations? Wealth? An ideology within the empire they believe to be the right one for the world?

You should come up with a morale excuse like the ones often used in the Roman and British empires :D you will bring civilisation by the sword. You will bring light to the dark regions, They are better off under your rule as they dont have the ability to govern themselves. You are helping them by conquering them, also gives you the ability to introduce some pretty fanatical characters ^^
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Offline Tomas_Miles_again

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2014, 04:31:35 PM »
0
Also thinking about your characterisation, remember that Rome wasn't built in a day. The founder of a small faction isn't going to live to see an empire rise. You'll see dynasties and usurpers and mergers and all sorts, over the course of several lifetimes.

Offline Osiris

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2014, 04:55:31 PM »
+3
Also thinking about your characterisation, remember that Rome wasn't built in a day. The founder of a small faction isn't going to live to see an empire rise. You'll see dynasties and usurpers and mergers and all sorts, over the course of several lifetimes.

he could go for the Alexander approach and lead a smaller faction to take over a massive failing empire. Could be interesting
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Offline HESKEYTIME

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2014, 05:40:49 PM »
+2
Also thinking about your characterisation, remember that Rome wasn't built in a day. The founder of a small faction isn't going to live to see an empire rise. You'll see dynasties and usurpers and mergers and all sorts, over the course of several lifetimes.

It's tough isnt it, you'd need a narrative that somehow encompasses a large period, and it's hard to tell a story if every few chapters you jump decades forward with new characters (the classic 'Foundation' series by Asimov does it well and to good effect, it follows the collapse and rebirth of a  Empire). Unless i guess, if the Empire is formed by 2 or more moderately powerful factions unifying, in which case the foundation of the Empire could be faster but would be less transformative.

I like the idea of how the spread of territory would transform the Capital, Rome became a huge consumer society and essentially a blackhole for raw resources, goods and food. It's the only way to sustain such a large urban populace. I'd expect any Empire to see a similar change to their Capital if not already following that model, Empire can bring a natural flow of goods/loot and slaves to the capital through simple expansion and conquest, or more exotic goods if you find resources not commonly found in your homeland, these all bring merchants and traders to the city, and people looking to set up businesses to take advantage of the high traffic through the city. All those people would need accommodation, food and water.

Then again, perhaps not everyone gets as excited by the idea of growth and developing infrastructure within a budding empire xD i'm getting old.
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Offline Osiris

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2014, 06:47:17 PM »
+1
It's tough isnt it, you'd need a narrative that somehow encompasses a large period, and it's hard to tell a story if every few chapters you jump decades forward with new characters (the classic 'Foundation' series by Asimov does it well and to good effect, it follows the collapse and rebirth of a  Empire). Unless i guess, if the Empire is formed by 2 or more moderately powerful factions unifying, in which case the foundation of the Empire could be faster but would be less transformative.

I like the idea of how the spread of territory would transform the Capital, Rome became a huge consumer society and essentially a blackhole for raw resources, goods and food. It's the only way to sustain such a large urban populace. I'd expect any Empire to see a similar change to their Capital if not already following that model, Empire can bring a natural flow of goods/loot and slaves to the capital through simple expansion and conquest, or more exotic goods if you find resources not commonly found in your homeland, these all bring merchants and traders to the city, and people looking to set up businesses to take advantage of the high traffic through the city. All those people would need accommodation, food and water.

Then again, perhaps not everyone gets as excited by the idea of growth and developing infrastructure within a budding empire xD i'm getting old.

To be fair those kind of games used to be all the rage :D Even games like EU and civ seem to have been dumbed down so you dont have to do so much :D instant gratification gaming ftl
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Offline Tomas_Miles_again

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2014, 07:19:50 PM »
+1
Draw yourself some good old UML diagrams charting the historical arc of where you want your story to go, might clarify things a bit, or at least give a vague epic ambitious idea some more shape.

Edit: Also perhaps look at George R. R. Martin or Bernard Cornwall for a little reference in good characterisation, especially where Martin gets you attached to characters with uncertain lifespans.

With multiple generations over the course of the novel, it may be useful to really examine how to maintain links between the generations that are passed down and corrupted or changed or interpreted differently by each generation. A leader of a tight-knit faction is likely to have a very different perspective on individual importance than the Emperor of a machine-like system that is an Empire. We love seeing heroes fall. Power passes to the victors in conflicts and it may turn out that the antagonist usurpers of one generation of the faction produce a noble benevolent protagonist later on, etc etc.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2014, 07:27:05 PM by Tomas_Miles_again »

Offline HESKEYTIME

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2014, 07:50:38 PM »
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To be fair those kind of games used to be all the rage :D Even games like EU and civ seem to have been dumbed down so you dont have to do so much :D instant gratification gaming ftl

On the subject of dumbed-down basic gaming: http://europe1300.eu/map.php?m=battle&id=2598 charge plz :P

Curse this topic, it makes me want to write, but i'm far too lazy. Also i'm a shameless troll in all aspects of my life, i'd just end up trolling myself by writing something so foul or offensive it could never see the light of day...
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Offline Johnnyfirs

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2014, 02:22:55 PM »
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Alright friends, really appreciating your help.
I'm tinkering with the Alexander the Great model, where a smaller yet focused army overthrows an Empire long past its prime. Instead of ruining said empire after a bloody conquest, he would remake the infrastructure, keep some of the original ideas and basicly form a fresh version of the empire.
You could have PoVs from characters in the empire before this foreign army arrives, where the general atmosphere is that people are very unhappy with the government (of course people don't know that they're in the last weeks of this empires lifetime). Some like the news they hear about this foreign conquering army, some don't. Some rumors say that everyone will be slaughtered to make room for this unknown people, others again claim that the army is their salvation.

I really like this idea!
Btw my main inspiration source is Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series, I just finished the third book. Extremely epic (in every sense of the word) series that has basicly blown my mind.

Oh and Heskey, go for it! Writing is thrilling, especially if it's just a hobby with no deadlines etc.
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Offline Kalam

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Re: How does an empire emerge?
« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2014, 06:17:52 PM »
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The funny thing is, when you mentioned an Empire in a fictional universe, the Malazan Empire is what came to mind. Erikson has his faults, but he's built a sound framework for the emergence of several empires in his fiction. K.J Parker's Folding Knife is pretty great about that, too.

However, I would recommend reading Guns, Germs, and Steel as well as War and Peace and War to get a broader picture of empire. If you prefer listening to reading, Dan Carlin's podcasts are pretty great.