Votadini Ethnicity in Caledonia | World Anvil
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Votadini (Vo-ta-di-ni)

The Votadini are the most powerful kingdom in all of Caledonia, an ancient bloodline that have exerted control over their lands below the hills overlooking the estuary of Bodotria (firth of forth) since time immemorial. By means of conquest, intrigue and acquisition they extended their rule over a vast realm consisting of many lands that used to belong to diverse clans. Some of these they put to the sword, others they married into long ago and assimilated others yet they they took by cunning, assassinating the chief and simply riding into court to assume command. Their power was so pervasive it was almost as if nothing could stand in their way. By these means they have acquired the largest realm in all of Caledonia, bringing with at untold stores of wealth and riches. With this vast store of wealth they support many warbands under the leadership of warlords that patrol the hills in their chariots vying to impress their king through their many brave exploits and raids.  


The spread of Votadini power is checked by the Damnoni to the east, These proud warriors have stood against all attempts to amalgamate their holdings into the dominion of the Votadini. Choosing to put up stout resistance to any incursions in their territory and refusing all attempts at marrying into each others bloodline. The Votadini and Damnoni have become sworn enemies, frequently in conflict and raidng the fringes of each others respective realms. The attested border between their realms is the river that flows into the Bodotria and the extensive marshes that surround the area, both parties vi for control of the ford that crosses this river with neither willing to give ground. Each time one gains the upper hand in the conflict the other resolves to take the initiative and press their claims the following campaign season. This ongoing conflict has resulted in a strong warrior class in both the Damnoni and Votadini.   To the south the Votadini border on the Brigantes tribal confederation, in time of yore they were at war with one another, the Votadini conquering minor border clans that were party to the Brigantes dominion. Although raiding and small incursions continued for many years eventually the borders and respective spheres of influence were settled on the southern upland hills that form a recognised natural boundary between each group. Both parties becoming embroiled in conflicts elsewhere, recognising that their resources were better spent elsewhere. These groups have been on more friendly terms over the last few decades, with trade wagons crossing the borders, even gifts exchanged between them. Although in recent years relations have been fraught due to the Brigantes assimilating an increasing stream of tribal refugees fleeing the roman persecution of their homeland and seeking to reoccupy ancient farmland in the borderlands between these groups. although both parties have had difficulties they remain commited to preserving the peace between them, neither wishing to begin a major conflict on two fronts.   To the north across the Bodotria estuary lies the lands of the Venicones merchants. These peoples have always been on friendly terms since the Venicones arrived as in their oaken boats as refugees fleeing Roman oppression after losing the war for their homeland on the shores of Gaul. Venicone merchants carry out most of the trade and ferries for the Votadini as they have no navy and no need to take to the sea. A ferry runs from the northern shore of Votadini lands across the Bodotria to the peninsula, avoiding the contested marshlands that form the border between the Votadini and Damnoni and the only means of journeying north by foot. relations are friendly between these groups, however the Venicones accepted the hand of the kings daughter in marriage and this has proven to be how the Votadini extend their power in times of peace.  


Votadini lands are a mixture of fertile plains extending north to the shores of the Bodotria, pastures in the foot hills in the hinterland and a vast expanse of rugged lands with forests suitable for the hunting of game. These hills have been used as a source of timber and hunting for generations, leading to the depletion of their timber and game for hunting. Nae wolves have been hunted to extinction here and bear an elk have no been seen since many generations. such is the burden that man places on nature. The The Druid Order expressed their concern for this depletion of natural resource in the wilds but the nobility persist to come here with hunting parties to chase deer for sport.   The Votadini nobility reside in a number of hillforts spread across their territory, from these lofts heights they command the fields and pastures below. their principal settlement is that of Traparian law, here they hold their court in a huge hilltop settlement with the homes of their vast retinue all contained within the walled settlement. There are a number of other notable Hillfort spread across their realm where the residences of the lesser nobles and found. These are the dwellings of slave masters who have grown rich on the exploitation of enslaved tribes who they put to work in mines and salt flats. From these industries the Votadini nobility have become wealthy, and this wealth underpins the order of their society.


The Structure of Votadini society is the most stratified of all the Caledonian tribes. The king wields ultimate power, his word is law, his family his heir. Below him are the nobles, most of which are cousins or distant family to the ruling bloodline, each vying to be closer to the kind. From this nobility the kings many offices and titles are appointed so that all matters of the realm fall under the sway of his picked men of the bloodline. Beneath these are the warlords, picked men who are paid for by the royal treasury to enforce the royal power across the realm, many of these men are the many second sons of the nobiity unable to inherit their fathers title, so they distinguish themselves through bravery and honour each trying to outdo the other in service to the royal house, some lead warbands on raids, others hunting parties, slave gang masters, the most notable among them form the bodyguard of the king himself a band of picked men thought to be the best warriors of the realm, each noble house retains a warband under his banner one and all pay homage to the royal house. Beneath these are the artisans and journeymen, they reside within the citadels of the nobility, ranging from blacksmiths and gold smiths, truthsayers and money lenders all the great minds and crafts that distinguish the nobility from the peasant are kept close for their protection. Beneath them are the peasants, all farmers and herdsmen most of them willingly subordinate and servile, like simpering serveants they are happy to give away their yields just in order to live in Votadini lands. Below them yet are the slaves and thrawls, wretches as they are, serving as a reminder to all how they might fall in society if the king deems their contribution unworthy. These slaves work the mines in chains and under the lash they do all manner of tasks befitting of their station. These slaves are made up of captured tribesmen, prisoners, the deranged and vagabonds that fell upon hard times. Many die due to the wretched conditions which they must endure, all of them like the walking dead, terribly thin and black with grime. such is the way of the Votadini that they are despised by the other tribes for their treatment of their fellow men, even the druids deplore such acts but they too are corrupted by the wealth and many gifts of the royal house so that they turn a blind eye to the obvious injustice.


Culture and cultural heritage

The Votadini were once alike to the rest of the tribes of Caledonia, they choose the chiefs by the tradition of tanistry, respected the traditions held in common among all tribes and recognised the authority of the druids and the divine nature of the natural world. As their wealth grew around the discover of ore and mines so did their hubris. Gradually their chiefs seen themselves above their clansmen and coveted lands beyond their own. as these chiefs grew to power through wealth, and those around them became increasingly corrupt and subordinated by it they began one in all to treat the other tribes with contempt. This is the way of the Votadini, power is what they covet, the do not see themselves as equals to other men, instead seeking to extend their power over their fellow man. As the Votadini expanded their territory to incorporate the captured hillforts of surrounding tribes they placed their own family as rulers, doing away with tanistry and replacing it with rule of the land, not of its people. They were the first to reduce other tribes to slavery, mocking the daughters of the chiefs as they shared their bodies with the lowest among them. Nay even he druids called them out on their actions but even they were corrupted by the wealth of the Votadini. As their wealth grew the nobility seen the seasonal ceremonies as an opportunity to display their wealth rather than celebrate the passing of seasons as has been custom from times of yore.    The Votadini draw their strength and power from their vast wealth, but in this is also their weakness, few are their number at the citadel and if calamity were ever to befall the royal household the entire realm would be sure to fall with it. Their greatest strength also their weakness.

Common Dress code

In appearance the Votadini are distinguished by their fine textiles, brightly coloured garments and ornate jewellery. Fond of ostentatious displays of wealth and prestige. however in appearance the look less garish than the Venicones choosing to match the colours of their apparel instead of wearing mixed brightly coloured clothes as the Venicones are wont to display. Many of these fine garments are brought to them by the Venicones merchants from Gaul and roman markets. For jewellery the noble houses wear large gold brooches that sport the symbol of their noble house, these they display proudly as a mark of rank in society. the warriors wear the torc of varying designs, this custom brought to them from abroad as a display of wealth and military prestige, each warrior vying to display a larger and heavier torc than the other, for they melt down their gold and silver won from raids and cast it into a torc. The bigger the torc the better the warrior, or so it would seem. The artisans ape the fashion of the nobles but are careful not to upstage them, although many of these artisans are crafting these items for the nobility it is deemed unbefitting of their station to display wealth beyond that of the nobility, anything unusual or exotic they gift to their masters in the hope of currying favour with them. such is the way of the Votadini

Art & Architecture

The Votadini reside in the largest Hillfort found in the lands of Caledonia. these hillforts consist of a number of palisades and ditches around the circumference of a hill, accessed by stoutly defended gatehouses and all surrounded by giant earthworks so that these huge settlements can be seen from afar. Within these settlements they inhabitants dwell in roundhouse not unlike those found across the rest of Caledonia, although inside they are richly adorned with painted walls of diverse designs. The largest of these houses have two floors and many rooms surrounding a central hearth. None reside in a building larger than the royal household, for here not only is the house of the king but the royal court and feasting hall where all matters of state take place.    The rest of the peasants all dwell in hovels on the lands below the hillforts, when raids occur they make their way to the hillforts for their protection. The warriors have no fixed abode, instead preferring to live by their horses, some taking with them a tent but most sleep under the stars during campaign season their waxed cloaks affording them the only respite from the elements. for this is the way of the warrior, to present a distain for ones comfort and the ability to withstand any kind of hardship or hunger.

Foods & Cuisine

The Votadini hold lavish feasts in the great halls of the nobility. Here they invite one another to great feasts each trying to outdo one another in the vast expenditure on the spread of food and drinks they can get their hands on. Beasts of all manner are served, sacrificing bulls and swine is one way of showing wealth but they also have a fondness for displaying exotic roasts of wild beasts no longer found in Votadini hunting grounds. Elk, Aurochs, boar and all manner of fowl from the hinterlands, even bear and lynx are presented on the feasting tables but seldom consumed. For drinks they have fine wine imported by the Venicones  from Gaul, for the Votadini refuse to drink the sour wine that the Vennicones sell to the rest of the tribes, preferring instead to pay a handsome sum for flagons of wine from Rome. All of these great things are presented in the finest of silver tableware and ornate serving dishes decorated in the skins of exotic beasts and decorative embroided tapestries displaying scenes from the legends of folklore. Such is the ostentatious nature of these feasts, when the feasting is done and the guests have had their fill of drinks and are merry some say that they take to having orgies, bringing in the fair girls and boys of the artisans and doing as they please with them.    These feasts last for days, while they go out in hunting parties during the days and frolic in sacred waters, in the evenings they take to feasting in excess. once the esteemed noble guests return to their settlements the artisan class is then invited to feast on the leftovers and the wine is mixed with water to dilute its potency, haunches of meat and flagons of stale ale are sent to the warlords on campaign. this feast is only allowed for a day and the tableware and tapestries are all taken away. When they have had their fill and the meats have begun to spoil they are gathered up into a broth, bones, skins, giblets all added with vegetables and barley are added to a huge iron cauldron and distributed to the peasants at the gates of the citadel. If there is any left the bones and unwanted parts are taken to the slaves or given to the hunting dogs. Such is the nature of Votadini rule reflected in the pecking order of their feasts

Common Customs, traditions and rituals

The Votadini still observe the Aonach and come to these events whenever they are summoned by the The Druid Order . Seeing the Aonach as an opportunity to display their power to other tribes and take whatever chances might arise in arranging marriages between the lesser sons and daughters of their bloodline with the chiefs of clans they wish to gradually assimilate or unwittingly fall under their power. The common traditions in their lands are attended by the peasants and farmers who are still concerned by the natural order of the seasons. The nobility choosing to stand aloof, not wanting to mix as equals with the peasants, nor extinguish their hearth fires and await a kindle from the scared flame.  Such is the extent of their hubris and disdain for the customs of their origins.

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Apr 30, 2023 15:55 by Marjorie Ariel

I like the level of extremity which goes into all things in this culture--from the nobles who wear elaborate jewelry and try to outdo each other with the excess of their feats to the soldiers who prove their worth by enduring as much hardship as possible.

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