Citizens and Slaves
Every man, woman and child born in the Etruscan Empire is entitled to full citizenship of the Empire. This provides various rights, but also responsibilities. No Etruscan citizen may be sentenced for punishment without an option to appeal to the Governor of that province, or a deputy of his. Citizens are also entitled to hold land and property within the empire, as well as run for political office. In return, citizens of the Empire must pay 10% of their wealth to a variety of local and central taxes, as well as local levies towards the upkeep of temples. Whilst the Etruscan military is a professional force, in times of war citizens may be compelled into forming Town Watches and other paramilitary forces.
The empire, like many of the nations around the middle sea have a system of slavery. Unlike some nations where slaves and their children remain slaves in perpetuity, slaves which serve their masters well are liable to become freed men, whose rights are similar to citizens. The children of slaves never remain the property of their parents’ masters, and upon reaching age 15, they become full citizens in their own right. Slaves who serve in Auxiliary units in the Etruscan military are entitled to full citizenship after 20 years’ service. Slaves who fight in fighting pits also often find opportunities to win their freedoms, though many choose to remain fighters since as gladiators they have prestige, which as a freed man they would not have. Slaves have limited legal protections against mistreatment by their masters, but in practice the enforcement of such laws vary.
Men and Women
Male and female citizens in the empire possess formally similar rights. Both men and women have rights to own property, and following the deaths of their husbands, many women have become very wealthy businesswomen and land holders. Women, however, are forbidden from taking political office, and do not bear arms in the Etruscan military. This has not prevented many women from exercising political influence from the sidelines, especially since women with a strong lineage can augment the power of strongmen with little legitimacy of their own. One such woman is Livia Aurellian, wife of the emperor. It is whispered in the courts of Remus that whilst Aurellian goes off on campaign or in search of fabled artifacts that it is truly she who rules. It is certainly the case that since her marriage to the emperor shortly after his return from the disastrous Myrmidian war, that she has safeguarded her husband’s rule on more than one occasion and has ensured stability for the empire. There is even talk of her deification alongside her husband.
The Etruscans are a polytheist empire which often incorporates local traditions and deities into their pantheon. Many of the gods worshipped by the Etruscans are shared with those widely worshipped in the Athosian league, albeit known under different names. Chief deities include Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Neptune, Apollo, Mercury and Bacchus. In addition to these, since the rise of Aurellian, worship of the Emperor has been mandatory. Despite his defeat against the Myrmidians, in the decades since that war, Aurellian has further cemented his rule over the political and religious life of the empire. Casting his enemies as daemons of Orcus, the faithful, or the credulous flock to shrines built in his name. Aurellian is revered as chief amongst the gods, as well as the great Pontifex Maximus of all the gods. His worship is referred to as the Imperial Cult – a religion which is oft resented in the provinces.
The worship of particular deities is particular to them. Worship to Bacchus often involves raucous parties and orgies, and worship to Venus often involves temple prostitutes. Worship to Neptune often involves offerings to the sea, whilst Mars is sometimes honoured by chariot races and martial pursuits. Worship of Aurellian often involves significant donations of money and golden statues built to his name – he is the Golden One, after all!
The following is a short description of various religious offices and orders which exist:
Pontifex Maximus – a post now permanently occupied by Aurellian. He is the chief priest of all of the gods, and makes offerings and sacrifices at certain key festivals. Like many positions, it is as much a political role as it is a sacramental one.
Haruspex – a Haruspex is a special kind of priest who uses divinatory skills to read the entrails of ritually sacrificed animals.
Augur – an Augur is another type of priest who interprets the will of the gods by looking at birds – either flying together, or alone.
Vestal Virgins – priestesses of the goddess of hearth, home, and agriculture, Vesta. Priestesses of Vesta are sworn to chastity.
Temple Prostitutes – dedicated to the worship of Venus, though sometimes other gods, some of these men and women are simply common prostitutes given a slightly gilded veneer. Some orders, however, treat their calling as a more spiritual one. Some progress to become full priests of Venus.
The Ides of March – historically known as a day for the settling of debts, it is now known primarily for the death of Caesar before his later resurrection as Aurellian. As one of the chief periods of obligation of the Imperial Cult, all Imperial citizens will cover their faces with ashes for twenty days after the 15th March, and all flags are flown at half-mast.
The Golden Dawn – the 5th April is celebrated as the day of the great resurrection of Caesar as Aurellian. It is a day of great jubilation and parades and feasting where the poor and wealthy alike seek to outdo each other with donations of gold to the Imperial Cult.
Etrusca – the heartlands of the empire and traditional homelands of the Etruscan people. Most of the wealthy landowners and nobles of the empire live here. It is a place of prosperity and trade which has not known war for some centuries past. Here the Imperial Cult is strongest. The towns and cities here are sprawling conurbations made of stone, and which contain vaulted temples and gravity-defying feats of engineering.
Remus – the heart of the empire and the seat of its government. From here, Aurellian rules. A city of a million people, it is a city of extremes where life is cheap and where the true currency is not gold, but blood and power. Most of the gods have their chief temples here, all of which are dwarfed by the recently completed Golden Temple to Aurellian, a structure made of marble and gold. The Imperial palace takes up fully a quarter of the city.
Gallia – a province wrested from the hands of celtic tribes a century ago. Now firmly under the power of the Etruscans, it is a variable land – with some places seeming far more Etruscan than others. In the south, cities are dominated by the same sorts of stone structures which are common in Remus, but in the north, territories are still ruled by client kings in the name of Etrusca whose cities follow ways much unchanged for generations. In the south, Masyllia has been resettled under Etruscan rule, after the failed attempt to raze it to the ground.
Phoenecia – a burning hot land with gleaming cities that seem to rise out of seas of sand. The cities here are a mishmash of architectural styles, with buildings bearing the Phoenecian and Etruscan styles. The great city of Qar-Hadast lies in ruins and is an ill-fated place haunted by the restless and vengeful spirits of Phoenecia’s past. The largest city is now Hadrumetum which is an ancient place built upon by successions of different rulers. It is the seat of the proconsul governor of the province and is every bit the bustling centre of trade which Qar-Hadast was in the past. The province is a mostly peaceful one – the Phoenecians are a trading people and the land flourishes like it never did before. Nonetheless, there are those who will not allow themselves to forget the wrongs done to them by Etrusca. Disappearing into the desert winds, armed bandits often attack and kidnap Etruscan nobles demanding ransom and political demands.
Avalonia – a mist wreathed land home to a wild people, Avalonia is the newest acquisition of the Etruscan empire. Or at least half of it is. The northern half of the island remains independent, and many of the southern tribes seem to barely tolerate Etruscan rule. It was in Avalonia where Caesar discovered the dark circlet which is the secret to his long life. Following prophesies and in search of further magicks to combat his enemies, Aurellian will stop at nothing to ransack the island. Lower Avalonia is governed by Caratacus the Tormentor.