If anything characterizes the Old Continent best, it is the enormous variety of cultures it has seen come and go. Each one of them has put its own grain of sand in the enormous amalgam of countries and societies that populate Gaia in today’s world and that lends it variety and color. Although each one of the territories that appear in this chat have their own cultures and traditions presented, certain general aspects exist that, to a greater or lesser degree, repeat themselves in almost all of them.
Considering that during the last seven centuries most of the known world has been unified under a single political power, the Sacred Holy Empire of Abel, it is not surprising that almost all of Gaia has a similar government. Until only recently the countries were considered powers subordinate to the control of Abel, although they enjoyed almost absolute freedom in executive and legislative matters. To all effects, the Empire limited itself to supervise the course of global politics and to solve conflicts between the different States. It was possible thanks to two instruments: the High Senate, a chamber of decisions in which the main leaders of Gaia met, and the figure of the four Lords of War, the maximum imperial generals. In spite of everything, the great independence of many countries allowed the appearance of really unusual political models, like the Illustrated Order of Ilmora, the Council of Entities in Arlan or the Association of Merchants of Eien, a private corporation that controls the country.
Nevertheless, all that has changed. Now after the fragmentation of the Empire, most of the principalities have become independent or have grouped together to form alliances against Abel. Ironically, except for rare exceptions like Togarini or Goldar, they all conserve the same governmental structure that they have maintained during the previous centuries.
As a general rule, in every country there is always somebody at the peak of power, be it a monarch, a prince or an individual with a similar title. He has jurisdiction over all of his territory and is solely in charge of dictating the laws as much as planning the future of his country. Depending on the place, he can be alone in power or endorsed by a council of aristocrats who second his decisions. In either case, immediately below him is the high nobility, who behave like small monarchs within the territories that they have been assigned. There are places in which their authority is so absolute that the prince can only ask for their support in lieu of demanding it.
Another political model that has a more recent appearance is the consensus government. In it, a governmental organism that arrives at its decisions by joint voting holds the power. In these cases, the members of said council can be chosen by an elite minority, like in Gabriel, or even by popular voting, like in Ilmora.
Of course, all these systems vary considerably from one place to another, and there are even places in which radically different models are used, like in Phaion or Baho.
The Upper Class
Within the structure of the society of Gaia it is generally necessary to speak of two different levels regarding the position and privileges. The first of them is known as the upper class, that which gathers all those people who garner a certain level of favor over normal people or “the plebes.” It is the leading class, the individuals that take charge of ruling over the rest. But even in this group, it is possible to find even further segmentations within the group.
First of all, on the highest level of the social roster rests the so-called high nobility, the most powerful people of a country. Normally they are related in some way with the royal families or they belong to one of the main houses of the nation. Generally their titles are accompanied with true political power, important possessions and even small personal armies. They are direct delegates of the monarch, are in charge of controlling vast territories, supervise the lower nobility, carry out justice and collect taxes. Because of it all, they enjoy enormous fortunes and their voices are always heard within their borders.
Immediately below them are the lower nobility, the most extensive class of aristocracy. Within this group there are a considerable number of individuals, from important counts or barons to small seneschals or marquises. Contrary to what occurs in the previous case, there is no reason for them to necessarily have large amounts of possessions or wealth; many are no more than normal people that have inherited little more than a title from their predecessors. Either way, typically they own some property, like a mansion or a small castle, and control the towns that are nearby their lands under the supervision of the high nobility.
In closing, it is necessary to speak of a new social class that has arisen in several countries during the last few centuries, but that has quickly acquired power that, on many occasions, rivals or even surpasses some of the most important nobles: the high bourgeoisie. They deal with retailers and merchants with an unequal buying capacity that has made them extremely powerful and influential people. Often they control banks, the transport of merchandise or even the manufacturing, which after all, is the true economy of a country. This high bourgeoisie earns many names, among which the term “gentile” stands out, one that has been coined in Gabriel. There are even countries in which some bourgeois families have supplanted the nobility and they themselves direct the government by means of a commercial council. Because of all these things, there are certain disagreements between the aristocracy and the gentiles, because the former often detest the influence that “mere people” of the mob have. Either way, the truth is that many bourgeois have acquired nobiliary titles by buying them or arranging marriages; thus, the line that separates both classes becomes harder to define.
Following is a quick reference to the more common nobiliary titles that have been used by the Empire during the last the seven centuries.
High Senator: A title that the members of the High Imperial Senate receive. Generally, they are the governors of the different principalities, although they can delegate such position.
Prince: A traditional title that the gentleman of one of the imperial principalities receives. It is the equivalent to the monarch of said territory, and has absolute power that answers only to the High Senate and Sacred Holy Emperor.
Viceroy: A title that the traditional monarchies received during the period of splendor in the Empire. For practical effects, it was equal to the one of prince.
Great Sultan: A title for the governor of Kushistan. Formerly equivalent to the one of prince, but at the present time it holds supreme power completely on its own.
King Pharaoh: Supreme Lord of Stygia, on who falls the temporal and spiritual power. Until the fracture of the Empire, it was equivalent to the prince title.
Archduke: Although it can generally be equivalent to the prince title, an archduke is a degree below this, since more than one can exist in a certain territory. It is the maximum degree of the high nobility, only below the monarchs.
Duke: Lord of a great province. Normally, it is the title immediately below that of prince or archduke. He has the power to name minor nobles, judges, and to supervise the functions of the courts.
Sultan: Equivalent to Duke, but used in territories of Al Enneth. Contrary to the previous one, the sultan also holds certain spiritual power as interpreter of destiny according to the Enneath religion.
Viscount: A level below Duke, it is the lowest title within the high nobility.
Count: The title of greatest prestige within the low nobility. He is a high lord, whose power is equivalent to those of a Duke in many aspects, but with less prerogatives of control.
Baron/Marquis: There exists very little difference between both titles, since generally the power and influence of both can vary considerably, depending on the territory.
Seneschal: Minor nobleman or “delegate”, whose power depends exclusively on a nobleman of greater ancestry.
The Other Classes
The social levels known as middle-class and lower class include more than ninety-eight percent of the inhabitants of Gaia (although there are those that assure the percentage is even greater). This is the sum of common people that populate the world, all those individuals that lack titles or extraordinary fortunes. Nominally called plebs by the nobility, these free men occupy a multitude of functions in society. In fact, the line that separates what is considered middle-class from lower class is very tenuous, given that it does not respond to anything but the personal wealth of each individual. A peasant can be considered somebody of lower class if he lives like a wretch, whereas another that lives more comfortably could be recognized as middle-class.
Normally, livestock dealers and farmers are found at the base of all social structures, the people who earn their living working in the field and taking care of animals. Their situation can be very different depending on if they own the land they cultivate and the animals that they take care of or not. Typically, the vast majority of territories do not have farming proprietors, but rather they do it by order of some of the local nobles. On the other hand there are other places, like Helenia or Baho, in which each person owns the land they work. Traditionally, there are principalities in which a bond of servitude exists between the worker and his lord. Even without being properly enslaved, because the lords preserve their freedom, they are completely subordinate to the will of the nobility.
Next are the craftsmen and workers of the cities who are dedicated to manufacturing all kinds of products, either for their own sake or for some rich bourgeois. Although they are generally well respected, there are countries with a high level of industrialization in which they work from sun up to sun down for practically nothing. Within this group a large assortment of specialists exist, that can handle countless jobs.
Finally, at the apex of the middle-class are the retailers and merchants, who sometimes receive the title of bourgeoisie. They are people who have their own businesses, and sometimes they unite forming unions or large companies.
The clergy is a social class that deserves very special mention. In a majority of the societies of Gaia, and in those countries of Alkavian majority especially, the members of the Church are highly relevant for being the esteemed spiritual guides of the people. Nevertheless, even within their own clergy it is necessary to distinguish between two different categories: the lower clergy and the high clergy. First are the priests, monks and canons, those assigned to preaching the word of Alkavir. They do not have any special benefits, but because of their position they are exempt of many taxes. Above these are the high clergy, the equivalent to Church aristocracy. They are its leaders: the ones who make the decisions, organize the day-to-day operation and economy of the different dioceses. The majority of them are high-class nobles, since many aristocratic families with several children make the youngest enter the Church to ensure their future, since not all of them can inherit equally.
Contrary to servitude, slavery is something that has been completely prohibited in the Old Continent since the appearance of the Empire. According to its own doctrines by which Abel was formed, any man, woman or child, without regard for the color of their skin or their fortune, has the right to freedom. Unfortunately, in spite of these high ideals, many countries exist that have continued to unofficially allow slavery within their borders. The clearest examples are places like Stygia or Kushistan, where after the fragmentation of the Empire it hasn’t taken long to legalize a practice that they’ve kept secret for years.
The slaves are the lowest class of the social levels; by their own conception, they are not even considered people, but objects or animals that belong to their respective owners. These owners are free to use them, mistreat them or sometimes even kill them without retaliation. After all, each one may do what they want with their own property.
Life in the Cities
The cities of Gaia are generally boisterous places, full of activity and color. The more prosperous their home State, the more populated its large cities become, and the less people remain in the country. Places like Archangel and Du’Lucart are clear examples of this, which throughout the years have experienced a spectacular demographic increase, impelled by the abundance of immigrants attracted by the prospect of a good future.
But above everything, the cities are centers of commerce, culture and progress. All the advances that have made the lifestyle of Gaia’s inhabitants more comfortable have originated in some of their cities, which have given rise to new advancements as well. Within them there are often paved roads, schools, large markets and a never-ending affluence of products that allow the buyers to find anything that they desire. Cities also provide a certain level of security to its citizens, who stop worrying about looting, the storms or the overflow of rivers. However, the real reason for which people live in the cities is to easily find a job and to begin earning a living. There are many who dream of making their fortune due to a stroke of good luck.
A great truth is that cities offer their citizens more advantages than their rural counterparts, but there are also very serious disadvantages. A large city needs much more elaborate safety measures than those of a village. Rarely will a city be threatened by bandits or mercenaries, since only a large army can present a threat to its thousands of inhabitants. Nevertheless, the natural predator of large cities is not an invading army, but its own scavengers. After all, citizens are also the worse enemy of cities. In villages everyone knows each other, but among thousands of people, one face is the same as another. That causes groups of criminals, all protected in anonymity, to bloom. Thieves, assassins, cutpurses, rascals, paupers and other people with dubious lifestyles teem, exerting their offices at the cost of honest people’s benefits. In order to fight this, the cities have their guards, independent military bodies that are in charge of maintaining order and limiting the criminal activities to acceptable numbers.
The control of the city falls on an organism of government, usually appointed by the princes or the high nobility, where they all receive different names (town hall, city council, mayorship or township). Regardless, they all serve the same function: to oversee construction projects, control crime and the militia, obtain the funds to pay the salaries of the civil employees necessary for the function of the Government and to grant the licenses to carry out activities within the city walls, a system to keep local commerce safe against possible intruders.
Life on the Farms
The daily life in the rural areas of Gaia can be characterized by three principles: work, common sense and survival. Without farms, most towns would not be able to move forward.
In spite of everything, daily life on the farm is actually quite structured. The farmers work sun up to sun down, since their livelihoods depend on it, and when the time comes for the harvest, they work to collect what they have cultivated with the sweat off their backs. Similarly, the livestock dealers try to benefit from the few months of heat while they take their animals to pasture. Thereafter, they begin to prepare themselves for the winter, repairing their cabins, fixing the roads and preparing the barns for the arrival of the cold winter months. And thus, the cycle continues unchanging, year after year.
In most countries, farmers are practically considered a national commodity, since they provide raw materials and foods to all the social classes that, in spite of being considered superior, indirectly depend on livestock dealers, woodcutters and other workers of the land. Consequently, the local nobles make sure to take care of them and lend them their support when needed, since after all, they need them in more than one aspect. In exchange, the farmers must pay taxes and work those backbreaking jobs that must be undertaken for the common good.
Generally, towns tend to organize themselves and typically one of the citizens is elected mayor or town representative, be it because of his age, experience or leadership skills. This person takes care to mediate in smaller matters and organize the village. Occasionally, the local nobleman chooses the mayor.
Contrary to large cities, villages do not generally have protection in the form of a local militia. So, in order to have a defense against bandits, those that live in farms collaborate as much as those that live in small communities to insure the well-being of its citizens. Naturally, there is usually some nobleman in charge of protection, although their soldiers only act during certain emergencies. By all means, if a town grows sufficiently, the first thing that they do is hire a squad of guards to keep the peace.
Education and Learning
|Imperial University of the Angel||Archangel|
|Academy of Letters of Yirath||Yirath|
|Academy of Sciences of Yirath||Yirath|
|Academy of Eustace||Eustace|
|The Great University||Lucrecio|
|The Sacred House||Albidion|
Just as there are vast differences in the culture and tradition of each nation, there are remarkable inequalities in educational matters throughout the Old Continent. The most common thing is that each child learns everything they need to live by directly from his parents, the tricks of his trade, or even to read and write if he’s lucky. And even if he lacks a family, he can still learn from his job and any experiences he has from day to day.
Either way, since nothing like mandatory education exists, many of the western principalities have spent years subsidizing public schools with imperial coffers so that any family can register their children for an education. Only basic knowledge is taught to kids in these schools, like mathematics, language and some history, but it’s still better than what their parents had a few years back. Sadly, there are still many places in which education is viewed as a waste of time that detracts from what the children’s best interest should really be: work.
In some principalities where the nobility or bourgeoisie have superior status, like Gabriel or Arlan, often the important families will hire personal tutors for their children. These particular teachers are highly valued, and the main aristocratic houses fight to acquire the best ones. Sometimes, if they want their children to receive an education of higher prestige, their parents will send them to Ilmora or the Great University of Lucrecio, for it increases a student’s reputation enormously.
The universities of Gaia, or centers of higher learning, are without a doubt the most important educational institutions. They are still very rare and few principalities have any (in fact, there are a total of ten universities in all of the Old Continent), but they often seem to surface in the most unexpected places. The best students (thanks to subventions) as well as members of the richest families are gathered there, forming a true social elite. Each university allows a specialization in various careers, although merely earning a master’s degree in anyone of them represents enormous prestige in and of itself.
From the same research in which madness was catalogued by the ilmorenses erudites as a disease and not as a demonic possession, some mental sanatoriums were constructed with the objective of studying and classifying such imbalances. At the moment there are very few institutions in Gaia dedicated to mental rehabilitation and none of them are very renown. Most of them have made some small advances, although there are still places that believe the best way to treat dementia is by undergoing a dangerous brain operation that can have terrible consequences for the patient.