Referred to today as simply "The First Emperor" the founder of the Sunarian Empire, was Akenit I; his name going on to serve as the dynastic name for his descendants and successors. Remembered today for his ruthless, but high minded nature, as well as his diligence, Akenit would ambitiously reaffirm Sunas' dominance over Lower Sunar, and found one of the first modern states in history.
What truly made Akenit's reign a glorious and successful one, were the changes he made to the structure of Sunarian society; which he undertook to promote his ambition for a united Sunarian state, and ethnicity. It was in Akenit's eyes, decentralization, and a lack of actual rule from the capital that had brought the fall of both Phernac and the Kingdom of Upper and Lower. In both cases, their client cities were never properly ruled, and instead paid what was essentially just lip service to the capital, maintaining their own distinct identities. As such, whenever the central power, be it Sunas or Phernac, showed even an inkling of weakness, revolt was never far from arising.
To prevent this issue, Akenit cut off the head of the snake that was separatism, and installed a centralized system of government. He believed that, by breaking down regional identities, he could replace it with a collective Sunarian ethnicity, that would bring about an age of stability hither to unseen in Sunar. Ultimately, Akenit's idea proved a tremendous success, for while he himself could not achieve his dream within his lifetime, his successors did. Ruling over united Sunarian people, Akenit's grandson's would reign over a united Sunarian people, dwelling within an empire more prosperous than any before or since; and owe all of it, to his reforms. Instituting a golden age, Akenit is the man who made Sunar a state, and by succeeding in this task he immortalized it as an eternal power, resurfacing time and time again.
Formation and Rise
Recognized today by many as a military genius, Akenit generally, favored the pen to the sword, and after initially uniting Lower Sunar, avoided warfare as best he could. For this reason there was never any explicit attempt made by the early Akenit emperors to conquer the south, and as a result, the disorder of the First Intermediate lingered in Upper Sunar. Phernac, Wajerna, and Lohbe, among several other cities, would all retain their independence during this period, and struggle to remain relevant as the north rallied, and prospered economically. In contrast the southern cities remained impoverished backwaters, largely isolated from the rest of the world by the north, who dominated the Sun River and kept Upper Sunar under its influence at least economically, rather than directly.
Despite forgoing war following unification, Akenit, was by no means a pacifist, he was a man ruthless to his core and driven purely by a determined ambition to create order from chaos. Rising out of the disorder of the First Intermediate Period, Akenit had seen the turmoil wrought by unnecessary warfare, and viewed it as the duty of a ruler, to give unto his people prosperity, rather than hardship. For this reason, warfare, was to Akenit and his direct successors, a defensive matter, rather than an offensive one. This belief, would have been reinforced following his unification campaign, by Sunar's immense prosperity. Looking outwards, there would have been little reason for Sunarians to want to go out and subjugate their neighbors. Poorer, and wracked by poverty and warfare, both Nebtka, and Upper Sunar, were backwaters, orbiting the glory of Sunar. To actually subjugate these regions, would as a result only be a burden, bringing little beyond more mouths to feed, and more people to manage and reign in.
Lower Sunar as a result would, for well over a century, serve as the heartland of the Sunarian Empire, experiencing an era of unimaginable prosperity, that both aided imperial reforms and grew because of them. As this occurred, Akenit and his descendants fought to unite the disparate demographics of the north, rallying them with new aspects of statehood, like an expansive and devoted bureaucracy, an organized religion, and a professional army. With these reforms and more, the Akenit Dynasty, was able to establish a Sunarian identity, that was fundamentally different, from what came before it.
To obtain this glory, and prosperity though, the empire would early on experience horrific bloodshed, as Akenit went after his political enemies in an event remembered today, as the First Purge of the High Bloods. Targeting those whom he had absorbed into his empire, despite their resistance in the First Intermediate, Akenit would fabricate, and unveil evidence of their rebellious plotting to justify wiping the slate clean. Arrested, their assets seized and families put to the sword, anyone seen as a threat ceased to be one for the young emperor.
In the wake of Akenit's purge, a vacuum arose that he quickly filled with loyalists from among his newly expanded imperial bureaucracy. These new aristocrats, would be implanted by Akenit, to rule over subjugated populations, or provinces, and proved far more reliable than their predecessors. Unlike the old native nobility, these newcomers, drew their legitimacy solely from the emperor, who had given them their positions.
Expansion and/or Reform
One outcome of the bloody culling would, be the rise of importance for the newly created imperial bureaucracy, which saw many of its bureaucrats receive appointment as provincial magistrates; but there were other, greater benefits to be had for the bureaucracy. Given new found responsibilities, prominent bureaucrats would lead their families into a form of new administrative aristocracy that would replace the old noble blood lines as a social elite. This new faction within the country would, at many points later in imperial history, push for their own interests, causing a number of problems for the empire. At their start though, and for much of the Akenit Dynastic period, the new aristocracy remained a loyalist bloc, controlled absolutely by the emperor, and his closest adviser, the eminent minister.
Similarly benefiting from the destruction of Sunar's old elite,and more specifically the acquisition of their wealth, would be communication within the empire. His treasury practically overflowing with liquidated wealth, Akenit invested great sums of money into improving Lower Sunar's system of roads, connecting the more far flung, and inland urban centers of the east, with the Sun River, the main artery of Sunar. Furthermore, and likely more importantly, Akenit established a bureaucratic ministry devoted exclusively to managing the empire's couriers, and communication. This unparalleled system of communication would be what made Akenit's ambition for a centralized Sunar a reality, as it allowed his will to be carried out quickly and effectively throughout the country. Furthermore, it had the effect greatly aiding matters of defense, since reports were easily, and expediently sent to and from Sunas.
A further, and even greater reform Akenit introduced upon Sunar, would be the introduction of an organized religion. Formerly worshiping a disorganized pantheon of loosely affiliated deities, the cities of Sunar, maintained their own distinct regional patron gods and goddesses. Akenit would see in this an area to foster unity, that Sunar currently lacked, and decided to promote Sunas' own patron goddess, Sune, above all the others. Rising as a new imperial goddess of unparalleled strength, Sune would rule over the domains of order, life, and the Sun River. Historically, rising Sune above the other deities was not a new endeavor. Previous rulers during the era of the Kingdom, had tried to elevate her, while discouraging and mocking the worship of all others; and through this succeeded only in alienating their subordinate cities.
Where they had failed though, Akenit succeeded. This was because he went into the alteration tolerantly, and built something altogether new, and separate from the efforts of the old kings. He did this, by placing in his newly ordered faith, a designated and important position for his subject city's patron deities. Sune in this system, was not brought up at the expense of the other patrons. Instead they were not only permitted, but encouraged by Akenit, who in the newly created Codex of Life and Death
labeled such deities the worthy, and loyal children of Sune. All of this would be decided in 754 FD, when Akenit met with the high priest in Sunas. Asserting himself as their absolute religious authority, Akenit established a hierarchical clerical structure under him with the high priests, lesser priests, patron priests, and others, all given specific roles and positions within religious society.
To promote Sune's preeminence, Akenit commissioned meager shrines in every city to her worship, but made sure not to alienate the native peoples by also heavily investing in their patron temples. Throwing an untold number of festivals and making enormous offerings unto patron temples, Akenit and his successors further solidified the stability of their new religion. This had the effect of essentially bribing regional patron priests, who would not fully recognize they were being paid to remain silent, until it was already too late for them to speak out.
Altogether though, these efforts were not enough. Despite adopting a slow and agreeable growth meant to avoid heavy resistance, Akenit's reformed religion did little to attract new worshipers to Sune. Her shrines were rarely visited, and quickly fell into disuse as Akenit's attempt at forming a united religion for his empire seemingly failed, and he lost interest in the reform.
In 758 FD though, divine intervention would turn his failure into an unparalleled success, for in that year the Sun River flooded, angrily and disastrously. Historically a calm river, with regular seasonal flooding, the Sun River's Great Flood, as it would come to be known, came out of season, unexpectedly, and wrought massive destruction across Lower Sunar. Recognizing in this disaster an opportunity though, Akenit reminded his subjects of Sune's dominance over the river, and portrayed the crisis as an example of her wrath. Angry, at being ignored, and left by the way side, Sune was punishing her children for favoring the patrons, and no amount of worship to them would alleviate a crisis their mother imposed upon the country. Most, however, did not listen, and continued to give offering to their traditional patrons, desperate for their favor.
As days turned into weeks and the flood waters did not recede, Akenit's words were proven true, the patrons could do nothing to stem the disaster. Many people lost faith in their traditional patrons around this time, realizing that since this was an empire wide crisis, offerings to an individual patron, could do nothing. Recognizing for the first time the weakness in their patron deities, people began to pay serious respect to the idea of an imperial deity imposing her wrath on them, just as Akenit had warned.
Soon after, worshipers began to appear at Sune's shrines and holy sites, giving unto Sune great offerings, and prayer; realizing the goddess of the river was their only hope of salvation. According to annals from the time period, this new worship to Sune even worked. Disappearing, apparently, over night, the river receded and the crisis ended.
Convinced now of her power and preeminence, many deserted their old patron temples in the days and weeks that followed. Making offerings at holy sites devoted to Sune, thousands came to make prayer unto her, and thank her for pulling back the waters of the mighty river. Onward, Sune would be viewed with far more respect, and reverence, her legitimacy assured by the calming of the Sun River.
Akenit would reinvigorate his religious reformation after the crisis, investing massive sums in renovating Sune's numerous shrines into vast temple complexes that won even more people over to her worship. Over the years that followed, preeminent worship to Sune grew into the new status quo, dominating patron deities, who gradually fell to the way side in the wake of a new shared religious identity across Lower Sunar; which brought Akenit one step closer, to achieving his dream of a united Sunarian ethnicity.
Numerous other reforms would be carried out and enacted by Akenit during his reign, establishing Sunar as a hegemonic power, that has gone down in history as one of the greatest empires ever seen. For a further look into these innovations, and others, please consult the panel to the right, where a link exists for the page on Sunarian Polytheism and Sunism.
Hegemony and/or Stagnation
Despite the greatness of his life, Akenit would die of old age, in the year 776 FD, twenty six years into his reign, his dream unfulfilled. Later Akenit emperors, following in the wake of Akenit's death, continued his progressive trend of reforging the government though;and through these efforts, a united Sunar was eventually achieved.
Akenit I's son, and heir, Akenit II, would undeniably, be the greatest of these successors, leaving almost as big an impact as his father on Sunarian society, despite being largely overshadowed by him in the annals. His largest and most famous endeavor, would without a doubt, be the program of linguistic reform he enacted mere days into his reign.
Language was a major sticking point in the dream of a united Sunar. This was because of the sheer number of dialects and tongues spoken in the region, that differed greatly from city to city. Sunas itself, spoke Old Sunarian
, an ancient tongue, that was a blending of both Phernaci, and the millennia old native vocabulary of Sunas.
To resolve this divide, Akenit II, a renowned polyglot, took Old Sunarian, and removed many of its out of date, or unnecessary aspects of vocabulary, replacing them with new words drawn from many of Sunar's other linguistic groups. Writing almost the entire language down, Akenit II commissioned one of the first real dictionaries, for his new language, and named itImperial Sunarian
. This new tongue built from the start as a tool of unity, would in Akenit's mind give almost everyone something familiar within the language to work with, but in truth, his belief was quite naive.
Imperial Sunarian had serious drawbacks, the largest being, that it was still primarily just Old Sunarian, with a few extra words thrown in. Perceived by many critics as a halfhearted attempt to create a legitimate shared language, many viewed the new imperial language as an imposition of Sunarian imperialism, disguised to look friendlier than it truly was.
Similar enough to Old Sunarian for its speakers to pick it up quite quickly, Imperial Sunarian quickly found traction within the capital, since the overwhelming majority of Imperial Sunarian remained unchanged from its precursor language. In contrast, anyone, not fluent in Old Sunarian, would have had an immense struggle ahead of them, if they attempted to learn the elements of the new imperial language.
This would be seriously problematic, since Akenit would upon the completion of his new dictionary, order they be sent to every magistrate, court official, bureaucrat and officer within his army. This would never be fully carried out though. Besides costing a fortune to produce, and simply being an impracticable waste of resources, Imperial Sunarian grew into an even worse debacle, when Akenit II made it the defacto language of government. Banning Old Sunarian, alongside any other native language, from being used within the imperial bureaucracy, military and court, Akenit II essentially barred anyone who could not fluently speak Old Sunarian, from holding any sort of public office. The effect this had, was to create a now encroaching expulsion of anyone in governance not ancestrally from Sunas, or who could not speak Old Sunarian fluently, and this was a serious problem, since there were quite a few of these people.
Akenit II had utterly underestimated just how many foreigners there were installed within the bureaucracy, and proclaimed he would fire the entire group in one swift decree, while no one yet existed to actually replace them. Acting primarily outside the capital, these people were tax collectors, soldiers, and scribes, all functioning under, and having been hired by magistrates; and as such they had largely been out of sight for the young prince turned emperor. Unable to function with so great a loss, Akenit II was forced, quite quickly, and embarrassingly, to double back on such a severe reform, allowing these foreign elements in government an undefined period of grace in which to learn the new language.
Recognizing onward, that more would need to be done than simply barring the older languages, Akenit II began a process of transplanting populations of Sunarian speakers to subjugated cities. Undertaken as a form of cultural colonialism, the transplant of Sunarian people to "lesser" cities was undertaken at the empire's expense, with colonists signing up as settlers, in exchange for a sponsored life outside the capital. Having a limitless supply of impoverished people dwelling within its overcrowded walls of Sunas, such a program had no problem finding willing candidates, and served as a means of cleaning up the capital's many issues stemming from a large population. Abroad, these settlers had the effect of seeping Old Sunarian down unto the native people they interacted with on a daily basis, making the overall adoption of Imperial Sunarian easier, and more grdual. This as expected, caused tension with the locals, but backed by the loyalist provincial magistrates and the imperial government, persecution of these migrants by native populations was heavily punished, when it occurred.
Over time, this process of transplanting Sunarian populations, would prove even more successful than the linguistic shift from Old to Imperial Sunarian, and be one of the major reasons for the gradual acceptance of Sunarian culture in later years. Through these colonies of Sunarian language and culture, residents of cities like Nascadet, Quartir and Oros, were exposed to a lifestyle that was not so alien to their own, revealed to be highly similar, the regional divide between people of different cities slowly broke down, as a pan Sunarian identity was shaped and revealed for the first time.
Akenit I's dream of a united Sunarian people would be a slow, and gradual process, that ultimately came to fruition around the reign of his grandsons, around roughly 850 FD. With exposure to Old Sunarian growing, acceptance of Imperial Sunarian would over time grow as well. Perceived as a language for the ambitious, wishing to make a name for themselves in the army or bureaucracy, Imperial Sunarian was at first learned only by those interested in imperial careers, or those inhabiting the capital; but over decades spilled out into the public, with it replacing Old Sunarian by approximately 900 FD, as a lingua franca for the empire.
Reintroducing his ban on other languages in government in around 800 FD, Akenit II re implemented his strategy to foster Sunarian identity among the provinces. If you behaved Sunarian, you would be treated as one, and be given rights to work in government. Able to rise through the ranks of the imperial bureaucracy, was a challenge, but not impossible to those who bent themselves to fit the mold of Sunarian life, and if they succeeded, it ensured that so long as one carried merit, they could live a high quality life. This, guarantee, would win the Akenit emperors the love of not just Sunas' people (who were portrayed as a sort of cultural ideal), but the greater empire's as well, who began to perceive acceptance of Sunarian society as a pathway to success.
Ruling in golden age for the land and people they reigned over Akenit emperors, are remembered today as the absolute high point of Sunarian power and glory. Wealthy, peaceful, stable and luxurious, the Akenit Dynasty provided each in great supply, and only fell to ruin, when their disloyal general Came I, overthrew the standing emperor, and proclaimed himself the new ruler of all Sunarians.
Falling into decline during the bloody years of Came I's reign, and later his son and brother, the Akenit family went into hiding. Reemerging thirty years later, under a distant branch of the family, the Akenit Dynasty would retake power, but the damage of Came's reign would never be undone.
The Second Akenit Dynasty, as it has come to be known, would be a far cry from the first, and suffered from a tragic perception of inferiority to their ancestors, seeing themselves as living under the shadow of a greatness gone from the world. Perceiving their reigns as inadequate and often times less productive then the first period of their family's rule, the emperor's of the Second Akenit Dynasty rarely achieved anything close to greatness, and under their watch Sunar fell deeper into a hump that the First Empire would never rise out of.
History of Sunar
The First Empire
The First Akenit Dynastic Period
Reform and Governance
Basis of Power
Power, in the First Empire, resided solely with the Emperor. As the political and religious leader of the Sunarian people, the emperor holds the twin titles: 'Lord of the Two Lands' and 'High Priest of Every Temple'. As 'Lord of the Two Lands' the emperor was and remains, the ruler of Lower ad Upper Sunar, as well as any subsidiary territories currently under imperial control.
Prior magistrates had held great authority in their domains, ruling their cities akin to micro-kingdoms rather than subjects. These initial magistrates, had sworn fealty under the mistaken belief their autonomy would be secured as it had been during the period of the Upper and Lower Kingdom, in exchange for Akenit's demand of tribute and a garrison. Ruling largely in their own right, though, these provincial rulers posed a great risk to Akenit's reign; one which he could not leave unchecked. Having ruled for centuries in some cases, the dynasties and councils in charge of these fledgling magistrates had well ingrained ties to their subjects, and would always pose the potential to revolt should Akenit's might ever waver.
To solve this, Akenit had the slate wiped clean through the Purge of the High Bloods.With these threats now gone, the new loyalist magistrates could be trusted to remain subservient, for the simple reason that they relied upon Akenit for their authority. Appointed and in power only so long as the emperor willed it, these newcomers to power, could not revolt, lest they loose the right he gave them to rule; for unlike the previous, native magistrates they had no legitimacy without him. To cement this forever after, Akenit made it law, that no person could hold a magistrate office that was held by a family member, less than twenty years prior. His effort being the clear prevention of provincial dynasties, that could come to challenge the authority of the ruling imperial dynasty.
As a result the new magistrate caste within Sunarian society was a government posting, that bureaucrats and their families could achieve, for a time, before returning to the capital when that magistrate was removed from his office, or he died. This prevented the magistrates from actually entrenching themselves over generations, but unfortunately would not remain a policy forever.
The First Sunarian Empire, was a heavily centralized state. While it maintained a provincial structure, magistrates were appointed by the emperor, and for much of the First Akenit Dynastic Period, these men, and on a rare occasion, women, were loyalists, who were known to be subservient to to the emperor. This invested almost all power in the capital, from which the federal government, that being the emperor and imperial bureaucracy, ruled absolute.
Crime and Punishment
Like its founder, the Akenit Dynasty's empire prided itself on draconian policies, that favored the execution of criminal elements. If found guilty of committing a crime, a person would in most cases, be swiftly and efficiently ushered off to a nearby location to be quietly, put to death. This was not the case for some crimes though. Murderers, rapists, thieves, and especially public officials found guilty of corruption, were as a policy, executed publicly before a crowd.
The reason for this was to present justice to the people. If the execution of a corrupt politician occurred behind closed doors, the public could deny it, and label the emperor as being soft on corruption. Seeing the spectacle with their own eyes, made it clear corruption was not being tolerated to both the people and the administration.
This reveals the primary motivation behind all of the draconian policies of the era, deterrence. Akenit I, and his successors, all believed that presenting executions to their people, would dissuade others from partaking in the same crimes. Because of the bureaucratic, and efficient nature of government, swiftness was needed. Executions were not a sentence dragged out over weeks, but was instead resolved within minutes of a sentence, often times directly outside an imperial courthouse.
As a result of this, very few checks existed to prevent incorrect rulings. If a person executed for a crime, was later proven to be innocent, it was of no concern to the government. The expediency of sentencing, and presentation of execution and deterrence trumped the cost of blood. As a result, it is easy to label the First Empire, a state where collective order, vastly overcame any semblance of individual rights.
Begun under Akenit, a comprehensive ministry was established, to manage the empire's couriers, the transportation of government officials and imperial records, reports, letters, and documents. Responsible for essentially maintaining communication within the empire, the Ministry of Communication, as it was, and still is called, proved paramount to the empire's operation, and has throughout history been praised for its value to Sunar and its people. Without such an in depth system, the efficiency of the early empire's bureaucracy would never have been possible, and as such serves as prominent corner stone in the periods success.
The imperial bureaucracy under Akenit I, and his successors would employ thousands of scribes, administers, accountants, ministers, judges, lawyers, and tax collectors, alongside dozens of other positions all in the name of providing a structured, and highly effective centralized government.
In Sunarian government, the emperor was the supreme judge and lawgiver, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and primary designator of officials appointed to the top posts of both the the magistrates, and the bureaucracies numerous offices and departments.
To oversee all of this, the old royal (Used in the Kingdom of Upper and Lower) role of eminent minister was expanded to include its old duties as the ruler's right hand, alongside the far greater task of managing the massive imperial bureaucracy. Easily the second most powerful position in the empire, the eminent minister's chief responsibility was drafting the government budget; however, his other duties included leading court conferences, acting as an overseer of the imperial court, receiving annual provincial reports and recommending nominees for high office. He could appoint officials below him, however, the emperor always reserved the right to reject these candidates.
One of the few duties an eminent minister could not do without imperial approval from his liege, was the declaring of war. This capacity was reserved exclusively for the emperor in all cases, including when said emperor was indisposed, since peace and stability were his responsibility alone to provide.The role of eminent minister would be one of the utmost respect in the empire, given out to only the most trusted and loyal of the emperor's supporters. As a result, the pairing of emperor and eminent minister had often times been strong one, where the two were close friends, or relatives.
Ranked below the eminent minister are the seven ministers, who each headed a specialized ministry. The exact number of ministers and ministries fluctuated slightly over the many centuries of the empire's history, with only five existing at its foundation.
Ministry of the Treasury
Ministry of Law
Ministry of Communication
Ministry of Infrastructure and Construction
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Imperial Diplomatic Corps
Each of these four ministries would have increasingly specific sub departments, who's role it was to manage and govern over certain specializations.
Besides these four there would later be added two, arguably three separate ministries.
Ministry of Disease Prevention
Which arose after the Second Rot Crisis during the Third Intermediate Period, in the Second Sunarian Empire and during the Amekhanic Dynastic Period.
Ministry of Sunarian Culture
Which arose during the Second Akenit Dynastic Period at the order of Emperor Asq I, who tasked it with the restoration of desecrated art, and the creation of new works.
Office of Military Administration
There was also, a third sector, known as the Office of Military Administration, which arose fairly early in imperial history, under the order of Akenit II, Akenit I's son, who created it to handle the managerial affairs of his expanded military. It was never given official status as a ministry though, and officially ranks below each of the ministries in bureaucratic rank. It, however, does not answer to any of them, and exists answerable solely to the eminent minister, and the emperor.
These ministry officials would in time come to be incredibly powerful figures in government, with oversight disappearing during times of unrest, thanks to the vastness of the bureaucracy. As father's used their power to hire sons, families revolving around certain branches of government quickly formed, and from the imperial bureaucracy a new form of societal elite would arise. Dominating in their particular fields, it would be from these dynasties that the eminent minister found potential magistrates, and as such it would be these families who's sons went on to manage the provinces and cities of the empire.
The economy under the First Akenit Dynasty prospered like never before or after. A golden age through and through, the time period saw immense prosperity for Lower Sunar as it alone, thrived in a world of stagnation, and fractured city states and petty kingdoms. The reforms of the era would also have a lasting effect in the economic sector, as Akenit I would implement a number of financial innovations that would prove revolutionary.
The biggest of these would without a doubt be the formation of a standardized Sunarian coinage. Historically, coins had been present in Sunar for centuries, with each city minting and producing their own distinct coinage.
Akenit would change this system by making the production and minting of coins by anyone other than the imperial government an illegal act, punishable by death. Following this up with a mass recall of each currency, the emperor had the Ministry of Treasury appraise, and exchange people's coins, forcing a fair, but often times irritating hassle on the entire population of Lower Sunar. Ultimately a necessary step though, Akenit's recall left a new style of coin, known as the silvered sekhmat, as the sole surviving currency within the empire.
The silver sekhmat would be a magnificent silver adorned mint, bearing the likeness of both Sune, and Akenit I on opposing sides of the coin, with the name Akenit I, frequently being inscribed on the coins as well. This pairing of goddess and emperor would be no coincidence, and served symbolically as a reminder for the empire's people of the emperor's divine marriage to Sune.
Early Sunarian coins were quite small, and produced on a massive scale, always in silver, rather than gold, due simply to the ridiculous quantity of gold in Sunar, which saw its value as a currency diminish. The main production of these coins occurred at one of three silver mints situated throughout the empire; Sunas, Old Desa, and Setkhe. The former and latter of these remain in production to this day, with Old Desa's mint having been replaced by Phernac, after the city's sack at the hands of the Zanarids in 1115 FD. Furthermore, of these mints, Setkhe serves, and has always served, as the primary minting location for the empire. Estimated as the origin of over half of all the coins in circulation by the year 800 FD, the reason for this primacy is quite simply its dominance over the empire's silver mining territories in the north east.
Silver's rarity in Sunar, and gold's prevalence would be the largest deciding factor for Akenit in minting silver coinage. Visible in surface deposits across the country, gold quite simply lacked a value in Sunar that it had elsewhere in the world, but this was not to say it was perceived as worthless by the Sunarians. Maintaining a religious significance, gold has been seen for millennia as the divine blood of gods, bearing special spiritual elements that trumped any vain economic worth it had elsewhere. This perception shifted slightly following Sune's ascendancy, to become exclusively her blood, shed during the world's creation.
Regardless of its worth though, gold was in no way a regulated metal before the foundation of the First Empire, and even then, was not directly nationalized until the reign of Akenit II, when it was nationalized as the property of the emperor. Prior to this seizure, gold was highly vulnerable to foreign based smuggling, however, a lack of concern has left us little records of the dilemma and it was in all likelihood not considered too major of an issue for the heavy decentralized kingdom. Growing in importance during the reign of the First Emperor, Sunar's loss of gold was recognized officially for the first time, and was frowned upon, but was ultimately not a large issue for Akenit, who's focus was no doubt elsewhere.
Under Akenit II, however, this problem became far more troublesome. Reports of caravans, overloaded with smuggled gold, leaving Sunar for foreign lands are well recorded at the onset of his reign, and appear to have sparked widespread, spiritual outrage from the masses, spurring imperial legislation calling for its harsh regulation. Establishing gold regulation as the priesthood's responsibility, Akenit II, as already mentioned, nationalized gold, and made possession of the mineral a crime punishable by death, spurring most of those holding it to turn it over peacefully, if reluctantly. Handing this vast stockpile of confiscated gold over to the temples, holy sites became reserves, as further legislation organized the governments regulation on gold into a strict system by which Sunar's gold supply was at last secure.
To achieve this, protection of gold, was made one of the emperor's core responsibilities, the preventing of its departure from Sunar especially, a part of his duty as ruler. Delegating this task onto the Priesthood of Sunar, Akenit II granted permission for the supply to be used in whatever manner they saw fit. Insisting only that all of it be recorded and accorded for, and that the loss or destruction of gold be minimized to its utmost. Choosing to parcel out the gold supply onto the their faithful masses, the Priesthood oversaw the transformation of the gold reserve into ornaments, decorations and jewelry. These trinkets were promptly given out to loyal worshipers of Sune, to be used during prayer as a spiritual bond with the goddess.
Alongside these gifts though, was a strict system of paperwork that was put into play. Recording who was in possession of exactly what item, and weight in gold, the regulation proved highly effective at clamping down on smuggling within the empire. Anyone found with more gold then they were recorded as possessing, or with unrecorded items, would be in violation of the new gold regulation laws. Often times, these individuals would be swiftly put to death for a combination of religious and secular crimes, hallmarking the period as an era of ruthless bureaucracy.
Around this time gold mines would also fall under the jurisdiction of the temples. Each site's labor and security would be managed strictly by the Priesthood of Sune, who were careful to only recruit the most loyal, or fanatical, of applicants; as a means of weeding out potential thieves and smugglers.
Because of legends and rumors abroad of the empire's obscene wealth though, attempts to infiltrate and steal by foreigners would be common, and punishment would be brutal. As a result, Sunarian gold mines are often spoken of, even today, in whisper, as fanatical places of hard labor, with little secular oversight, and cruel enforcement of the imperial gold regulations that distrust even the most loyal of Sune's children.
Trade during the First Akenit Dynastic Period was an interesting affair. More united than any of its surrounding neighbors, Sunar looked down upon foreigners, for their chaotic disunited homelands, seeing in them a lack of order, or cooperation that Sunarian perceived in themselves. This had the effect of giving the empire an arrogant perception of itself as not needing to trade with the "lesser" peoples around them, who according to imperial records rarely offered anything new to the vast Sunarian state. We know this to be a fabrication though, as findings indicate a number of foreign goods were present within Sunar, that would not have been obtainable without a wide spread system of trade.
In the south, trade was fairly common, despite continued disorder stemming from the independence of Upper Sunar. At this point in history, warfare was common in the south, and caravans were frequently the target of both desert bandits, and roving bands of soldiers. Trade continued, even with these dangers, thanks to the demand in Lower Sunar for Drumidian goods, such as ivory, but primarily pelts. Prized in the north, lion and leopard pelts especially were in high demand among Sunarian men, as a display of wealth, and prestige. Upper Sunar itself, offered little in comparison though, with essentially any worthwhile good, being produced in greater quality and quantity back north. Further south, beyond even Drumidia, on the edges of the Kamvali Rainforest, a trade in tropical wood is known to have existed, however, it was never significant, and it is unlikely merchants out of Sunar made the trek to often.
Naval trade northwards across Belezine Bay, was without a doubt one of the safer trade routes during the period. Secured by a powerful Sunarian navy, piracy, while not unheard of, was exceptionally rare in the bay, and trade absolutely flourished because of it. Furthermore, protected from harsh storms, by the Checkered Gulf, Belezine Bay maintained calm, warm waters all year round, allowing for ideal sailing conditions. The main port of interest at this time, would have no doubt been the city Illumbir, along the North Shore. Renowned for its turquoise, and precious stones, the city thrived during the Akenit Dynastic Period, and maintained a reputation for possessing the best gem appraisers in the ancient world.
Belecose, as well, was a wealthy trade hub along the North Shore, known for the mastery of their craftsmen. Producing some of the finest wood crafts available, Belecose, made its business in the carving, and detailing of lumber, into exquisite art, that was beloved in Sunarian markets. Belecose's fletchers were also of pivotal importance to Sunar, as almost every arrow used by the armies of the First Empire, originated from a singular neighborhood in the city.
Further northeast, beyond Belecose, very little existed to attract Sunarian interest. Inhabited by a number of tribal peoples, the dense swampland, and plains of Thruush maintained no major urban centers, and in the way trade goods, was renowned only for its people's adequate wickerwork.
To the west, next to no trade routes existed. Perceiving themselves at the westernmost edge of civilization, the Sunarian's thought very little of the lands beyond the desert boundaries of their realm. The only place known, in this age, to lie beyond the shimmering dunes of the Sunarian Sea, were the humid, disease ridden mangrove swamps of Zanzilore. Thought of as a dark, and ugly land, little was known of the tropical local, besides the antisocial behavior of its natives. Trade with these, tribal, isolationists, was as such, not common, and in regards to trade goods, we know very little from this era.
Between Sunar and Zanzilore though, a vast network of oasis, and salt mines spanned far into the Sunarian Sea. Remote, and beyond the borders of imperial authority, these were places built out of an unkind land, and it showed. Run by either Sunarians, or desert tribesmen, slavery was, and remains to this day, a common custom within the desert salt pits, and little is done to reign in the lawless land. Because of the lack of governance, banditry runs wild within the central, and southern Sunarian Sea, and it is not uncommon for the wild desert men to raid deep into imperial territory in search of luxuries, and slaves. The region's northern coast is noticeably safer though, as the high prevalence of salt mines draws in traders, who often hire mercenary guards to accompany them. This northern region is often styled, the Salt Coast, and it serves as the primary supplier of salt for Sunar, and much of the ancient world, trading it as far east as even Kamet.
The main source of trade for Sunar was without a doubt, the east. Purchasing silk, jewels, exotic animals, wool, wine, ivory and even raw timber from these places, the east, for much of Sunar's history, was the main focal point of Sunarian attention. Bordered by weak tribal kingdoms to the south, desert to the west, and sea to the north, the east was where civilization was, and naturally drew in the powerful empire.
Kamet, in the far south east, was major destination for merchants in search of luxury goods like silk, or exotic dyes. Ivory as well, was a major export of Kamet, despite it being illegal. This was because,elephants in Kamet were a holy creature, of great esteem. To kill or plunder the grave of one carried with it a steep penalty of death. This did little to stop foreign smugglers though, who made a business of looting the country's massive elephant graveyards, in search of tusks.
Further north, the disunited city states of Nebtka acted as Sunar's closest partner, and made up the overwhelming majority of its overland trade. With hundreds of cities all offering specialized services and goods, naming them all would be utterly impossible; instead two in particular stood out for Sunar, holding a special interest with the mighty empire.
These would be Lalesh and Tarsa. Perched on the edge of an ancient and vast forest that today sits at the bottom of the Shallow Sea, the twin cities made a business of forestry, and sold their timber in a massive quantity to Sunar. This timber trade, was vital to the empire, as it provided a reliable and easily obtainable supply of hard lumber, that made up for a lack thereof in Sunar. Palm wood, while prominent in the Sun Delta, lacked the sheer quality of Nebtkan oak, and was used as a result for building projects, or by the general population. The main usage of imported Nebtkan lumber was in the construction and maintenance of warships for the imperial fleet. Far tougher and more expensive than anything produced yet within Sunar, the imperial fleet would be paramount to the First Empire, and reinforced Sunas hegemony whenever one of its mighty vessels passed by a town or community.
Slavery in Sunar was a criminal practice, not tolerated in any form. Men were all born equal, under the emperor, who was in turn subservient to the goddess. This ideology, was an old one gong back long before written history, and indicated a reliance on autocratic rulers to obtain some divine connection to justify their reign. We see this most plainly in the imperial custom of divine marriage and alemana, with promoted the emperor, and any offspring he produced with Sune, as something more than mortal. Making them beings worthy of absolute power, and dominance over their fellow man.
The concept of slavery, and the shackling of men was a barbaric one to Sunar; with people who partook in the practice of of slavery, being though of as lesser, dirty, or evil begins. What this meant, was that Sunarians looked down upon essentially every one of their neighbors, since almost everyone, but them, partook in slavery in some form or another. Despite standing alone on this policy, Sunar has always stood by this idea, refusing to back down, or tolerate the practice in form within its borders.
Travelers bringing slaves with them into the country, could expect to be arrested, with their chattel being liberated and granted asylum within the empire as they themselves were expelled. Slavers on the other hand, being men coming to enslave or trade in slaves, were treated far far worse. Rarely sentenced to anything short of death, they were often times killed not by an executioner, but by their own chattel, who were given arms and permission to enact justice on those who would shackle them.
This perception of slavery made Sunar the greatest destination for escaped slaves the world over, and inspired millions over the centuries to flock to its borders in search of asylum. Readily giving it, Sunar maintained the idea that if these new comers behaved civilly, obeyed the law and gradually adopted imperial mannerisms, they were a welcome addition to the empire.
While it opposed slavery, Sunar was never particular interested in fighting it beyond its borders. No wars were waged to liberate slave populations, and instead the empire's resistance was a far more passive affair.
During the First Akenit Dynastic Period religion played a tremendous role in the assimilation of Sunar's many demographics into a united Sunarian ethnicity. Used as a tool, Sunism arose during this time, making the era a time of religious fervor, and dissonance, as traditional Sunarian Polytheism gave way to the more structured imperial faith.
For more information on religion during this time period, one should consult the main body of this page, under the section Expansion and Reform. For a more detailed look at religion though, one should look at the history section of Sunarian Polytheism and Sunism
under the sub section for Sunism's foundation. It gives a detailed overview concerning Sunism's pre-history, its foundation, and ultimate success over the older polytheistic beleifs of Sunar.
Akenit's rise was a direct result, of a series of reforms he carried out while still a small time contender in the urban battleground of Sunas.
Revolving around levy systems, Sunar and Sunas had long been dominated by men who could rally large forces, or levies, of light, poorly trained and equipped men. These levies were usually farmers, or craftsmen; essentially the common people of Sunar. Their leaders, were usually members of the old noble families of the city or region they lived in, who used their lineage, prestige and fortunes to fight for control over territory like petty warlords.
Akenit would be one of these men, rising from the son of minor noble house, to become the first absolute ruler of Sunas to appear in generations. What he did to stand out from these others and achieve his ambitions, was to select the very best of the levy, and organize them into a smaller, far more elite fighting force. More advanced, and disciplined, these new warriors, were soldiers first and foremost. They never returned home to manage farms and instead, drill all year round, while living off a salary paid by Akenit.
What this did, was give Akenit, an army he could use all year round, that was better trained, and thanks to its smaller size, was better equipped with more advanced weaponry and armor. Using this force, he would quickly subdue his rivals in Sunas, before expanding his new military, and beginning the ten year campaign of conquest that would win him an empire.
The best example of Akenit's military success would be his campaign against the nearby city state of Nascadet, which culminated in the Battle of Ulemna. There Akenit's army, outnumbered three to one, defeated the combined host of Nascadet, and its allied cities, Amatanet, and Zoteph. This victory positioned Akenit as one of the greatest commanders of the day, and proved to the world, that the idea of a smaller, but better trained military, had serious merit.
Despite their successes, Akenit's small host soon reached the limit of its capabilities. The expense of each soldier (thanks to their training, armor and salary), prevented Akenit from raising a host of any serious size. In conquering the empire, this had not been too great an issue, but once this was achieved and a force was needed to secure and protect the large state, the tiny professional host was revealed to be woefully inadequate. There were simply to few men to go around. Productive only when deployed on localized, or specific duties, the well trained warriors were simply unfit for a larger, empire wide operation. For that sort of endeavor more men would be needed.
To solve this dilemma, Akenit I reintroduced a staggered levy system, to bolster his army, but he found little support among the populous for such a measure and was never able to properly enact it. Men would show up for a few months, and then leave when nothing beyond garrisoning occurred. Seeing no real threat, they did not fully understand why they were being called up from their farms in a time of peace, and so for much of Akenit's reign, his army was only effective while at war. This would force Akenit to deploy his elite units responsively instead of preemptively, with them arriving well after a raid had occurred, or several days into riot, or revolt. In these cases, they often times arrived to find the local garrisoning levy force absent, its members having abandoned their posts, and returned to their farms long before the crisis broke out. These desertions would prove disastrous, as they provided a soft target for Akenit's enemies within and from abroad. Ultimately they were only maintainable because of Akenit's mastery of the river ways and speed by which his elite forces could arrive. Without these, the First Empire would have no doubt collapsed within a few years of its foundation.
A proper solution to this crisis would not arise until after Akenit I's death, during the reign of his son, Akenit II. What he did to solve the problem was to completely overhaul the empire's army. Hiring thousands, upon thousands of new recruits, Akenit II paid them a set salary that was barely a tenth of what his father's warriors received. These men, the old guard, who had fought under Akenit I to unite Sunar a generation earlier, retained their salaries, and were promoted to become the new commanders of Akenit II's expansive army. Akenit further reduced the cost, by cutting back the quality of training. His army in general, did not need to know a vast array of tactics and formations, for no large scale threats existed to rival it. Instead it simply needed to operate as an effective security force, that in times of disorder, could maintain order.
Going further down the vein of cost cutting measures, Akenit II implemented a standardized set of mass producible equipment. Light, and less effective than the extravagant gear of his father's champions, this new set would be far simpler to manage, and was for more viable with large quantity of troops. Worse overall than their predecessor force, the new army would be ten times the size, and still display a level of professionalism unrivaled in the ancient world. This shift to a large, standardized military, would serve on throughout the First Empire, as the form and style for imperial armies. Despite over a millennia of history since these reforms were enacted, the system remains to this day, having, like many things in Sunar, wavered little over the many centuries.
Another major addition undertaken during the age of Akenit II, would be the formation of a temporary position known as the serene commander. This position was the irregularly appointed commander of the entire imperial military. Only being used on a small number of occasions throughout the entirety of history, the position was second only to the emperor, with the serene commander trumping even the eminent minister in terms of authority. Under normal circumstances, however, military matters would be handled primarily by the emperor, who during peacetime, often delegated the responsibility to a collection of generals, known simply as the War Council.
Cavalry and the Decline of Chariots
Other changes that arose during this period would be the decline of chariots, with their usage dwindling greatly after the end of the First Intermediate. This would have a very important impact upon Sunarian society though, as in their place, cavalry, both heavy and light, came to see a far greater role in the country's armed forces. Historically a place for the nobility, cavalry had never played to large a factor in warfare, acting more as a show of wealth, and prestige. Under Akenit though, cavalry was harnessed into an actual weapon on the battlefield. To do this though, Akenit desperately needed more men on horseback, and began recruiting the sons and nephews of civil servants. This behavior further solidified the new administrative aristocracy as a legitimate new elite class of society, by offering young men yet another means of career advancement outside the bureaucracy or priesthood.
Usage of chariots would linger for centuries onward in the First Empire, as a symbol of imperial power. The emperor, and his sons, would be the only people traditionally expected, to ride in a chariot during battle, using the machination as a mobile command post from which to lead their forces. This is not to say they were limited to a chariot, however, many princes and even emperors would lead or even fight, from horseback, or on foot at one time or another; but in this system, the chariot would survive, as a machine of war, symbolic of the emperor's power and grace.
Security during the reign of the First Akenit Dynasty was not an exceptionally large issue. Its neighbors universally, were more focused upon fighting one another over their homelands, then they were interested in going toe to toe with the giant next door. Furthermore, defended on both sides by desert or mountain, Sunar was geographically in an ideal position to keep out and combat, foreign armies. For these reason hostile conquest, was simply not a concern of the time.
The bigger issue that plagued the Akenit period however, was raiding. Surrounded by harsh, and remote regions to its west and east, Sunar was defended from armies, but not smaller bands of pillaging looters. Able to slip in and out of the deserts and mountains on the peripheries of the country, meager clans and tribes grew wealthy of their ill be gotten gains, and developed into powerful raider societies.
In the west, the desert tribesmen proved the largest threat, as there swift horses and mastery of dunes made pursuit next to impossible. Attacking settlements in the western parts of the Sun Delta, the main interest of these interlopers was in the capturing of slaves for the remote markets of the Sunarian Sea. Because of Sunas' proximity, and the military reforms of Akenit II, the desert raiders ceased to be that much of an issue by around 800 FD. No longer able to raid the frontier unopposed, tribesmen gradually gave up on the Sun Delta, and shifted their sights south to easier targets in Upper Sunar.
On the other edge of the country, mountain clansmen of the Nebtkan Highlands attacked Sunar in search of both gold and slaves. Often grouping together into vast war bands, the clansmen proved a far greater threat than the desert tribesmen, because of their habit for targeting large, well defended settlements and towns. Launching their raids in the dead of night, it was not uncommon for the barbaric raiders to take a town entirely by surprise, storming its walls, and putting the whole community to the torch as they ransacked it for plunder.
Furthermore, retaliation was never an option in the clansmen's case; since their homeland sat high up in the hills, secured by the fortified citadel of Garamae. Built into a natural mountain choke point, Garamae stood blocking the only pass into the highlands and was widely considered to be an unassailable location.
The only bright side to this issue was that because of its geographic location, Sunas acted as a buffer or blockage, that kept most of the clansmen at bay. As a result, raids were largely localized to the northern regions of Upper Sunas, around the cities of Lohbe, Yaek, Tiphir and Anrudet; and did not directly threaten the core region of the empire. The only imperial cities that regularly received attacks were Rimak and Jonecaros, and in the case of the latter, raids often amounted to little more than livestock theft or burglary. The main reason for this was that Jonecaros, like many settlements, resided on the western bank of the Sun River, and was thus far more defensible against the raiders of east. Relying on rapid, and surprising assaults to net their victories, the clansmen lacked the resources, experience and time, to construct vessels to get across. Raiding on the western half was thus conducted only by the strongest of swimmers, who could cross, grab few valuables, and then flee back before alarm bells were raised. Despite being a non issue for much of the empire during this period, highlanders were nonetheless, a threat that was incredibly feared by the people of Sunar. Renowned for their brutality, cunning and determination, the men of the mountains were frequently used as a boogeyman, to frighten children into behaving, lest they be snatched by a hill raider.
Infantry within the First Sunarian Empire, would from Akenit II's reign onward, be armored with a new standardized set of gear. Made up of two main pieces, the body was protected by a form of hardened, white cloth, while the legs were covered by a studded or plated skirt; these two pieces of armor, were both cheap, and effective, and made the empire's soldiers both a tough and numerous adversary. Besides armor, several other forms of gear were issued at one time or another. Helmets for example were also provided, however, no set style seems to have existed. In regards to weaponry, again no true standard existed, however, the spear by and large retained its dominance for the period.
An example of Sunarian soldiers equipped in the armor that was standard throughout the First Empire.
Light cavalry was equipped very similarly to infantry, with the men being clad in the same white cloth and skirt. They very likely would have also carried with them, a lance, which would have been used in the pursuit of routing enemies. Besides this purpose though, light cavalry seems to have played a unbalanced role in battle. Incredibly numerous, the vast number of light horsemen only actually did anything, once the engagement was won, or things had gone disastrously wrong. This was to be expected though, as the place light cavalry truly proved itself a worthy addition to Sunarian armies was in auxiliary roles as scouts, and messengers. In these tasks, cavalry men excelled, providing invaluable support to armies they fought within.
Where light cavalry barely took part in combat, heavy cavalry was the complete opposite. Tasked with breaking through enemy lines, and shattering formations, the role heavy cavalry played put them in the thick of combat, and required that they be protected by some of the best armor available at the time. For this reason they would have been equipped in far better gear than the light cavalry. Adorned in a blend of what appears to be an early variant of scale mail, both man and horse would been protected under a layer of metal, making the pairing an imposing sight for anyone foolish enough to stand in their way. Furthermore, wielding a lengthened khopesh, or war lance, the ability of these elite cataphracts to take hits, was met equally by their capacity to deal it out. Less numerous than infantry, or light cavalry, the emperor spent far money on these elite cataphract retinues, and was rarely disappointed with the investment.
Sunarian heavy cavalry, otherwise known as cataphracts.