- This article is part of the Origo Mundi canon.
Ancient Iria refers to the period of Irian civilization that developed after the Bronze Age Collapse. They were preceded by the Irian Dark Ages, about which little information is known outside of speculation. Ancient Iria encompasses roughly 1,300 years of history, from the approximate end of the Dark Ages in the 2nd-3rd centuries, to the end of antiquity in the 16th century.
Irian civilization first emerged in the region of Thrydacia (central Iria) around 200 OM. Still in its infancy, it was characterized by bronzeworking, small polities and localized pantheons. Around this time, the first city-states were appearing as people moved from the countryside to urban centers. The heartland of ancient Iria was the valley of the Hecis River.
Aigeum was the most prominent of the early city-states along the Hecis. It was ruled by a dagatos, a holdover from tribal days. The dagatos was a high chief who held a rank of seniority over the lesser chiefs. However, he was forbidden to enter the city itself, instead remaining ever vigilant on the outskirts to protect the place from raiders. More direct administration of the city was done by the larikai, a council of priests and wise men. In Ageum, there were 17 larikai permitted in office at once, so they became known as the Seventeen.
Other cities held unique traditions and were governed differently than Aigeum. The most notable were Oaxala and Kyr, both situated closer to the river mouth to have better control over outgoing and inbound trade. At Oaxala there was an established cult to Nemera, Goddess of Night and Day. Kyr, a port and shipbuilding hub, was Thrydacia's primary connection with the sea. By the third century, a number of small cities had sprung up on the coast. Asklena and Rhithera projected their power into the Adsea and dominated the maritime trade passing through what became known as the Strait of Rhithera.
Rise of Korascutos
It was in the early third century when Korascutos made war on -- and slew in battle -- his brother Eurasthae, to seize the dagate of Aigeum. Korascutos, despite his act of familial treachery, is known from early Irian records as one of the greatest rulers in Thrydacia. After usurping the title of dagatos, he successfully quashed a rebellion of the larikai, arresting all 17 of them in the midst of a conspiracy in their temple. Afterwards, the larikai ceased to hold any political power, and were reformed as the lacharai, a group of advisors loyal to their newly declared akassos (king). The old tribal authority was erased for good.
These events coincided with the sudden arrival of Ludian nomads from the eastern steppe. The Ludian migration brought war to Thrydacia soon enough, and the armies of Irian and Ludian clashed on the outskirts of Aigeum. Thanks to the bravery and skill of their commander, the defenders of Aigeum were victorious. With the invaders driven back to the Cebrion, Korascutos built a defensive wall around Aigeum, and laid the foundations for a palatial fortress atop the Hill of Motravena. And, to celebrate his victory over the Ludians, he founded a new city to the north, and christened it "Corascuto".
One side effect of the Ludian migration was that it displaced many Irian tribes, triggering a chain of migrations to the more defensible seacoast. Tribes of raiders, both Irian and Ludian alike, wreaked havoc on the coastal cities for a time, razing the croplands there and spreading famine throughout the area. Some of the cities, in a bid to improve their fortunes, established colonies on the far side of the straits which would help supply their homelands. This led to the first permanent Irian settlers crossing onto the island of Ceta and founding the city of Tydhon. Later on, the Irians were able to complete a full conquest of southern Ceta, topple the native king, and establish hegemony over half the island and, likewise, its trade. This gave some Irian cities respite and recovery from the migratory disaster.
Through military victories, Korascuto expanded his domain north and south to cover much of the Hecis valley. Thrydacia's cities saw a marked increase in population around this time. The existence of Corens is first attributed in the 230s, although remains have been found in the area that date back longer than that. Iria began exporting pottery, oil, grains, metals and trinkets. The Straits of Rhithera were frequented by foreign boats, allowing for the continued existence of city-states on the coast, independent of the Thrydacian states in the interior.
Tydhon, the glistening city
No less than a decade after its founding, civil strife threatened to destroy Tydhon. It was the uneasy relationship between the native Cetans and the Irian colonists, exacerbated over religious disputes, that caused the first drops of blood to be spilled on the marble steps of the temple. Rochis' account describes the stabbing of an Irian priest by an unknown assailant, and the subsequent ethnic violence that broke out in the city, resulting in a massacre of Cetans by a group of armed Irians. The Cetans retaliated with a full-scale riot. According to Rochis, the troubles were solved when a priest named Criopes adopted a syncretist policy to appease the native Cetans.
The next year, a group of explorers from a faraway land called Keba visited Tydhon and had an audience with Daios, the ruler of Tydhon.
Ancient Iria was divided into four distinct regions: Ceta, the large island to the west; Western Iria, on the west coast; Thrydacia, along the Hecis River; and Solcia, in the east.
Proto-Irian society was based on the principles of kinship and the separation of the military and the priesthood. The former was largely preserved during the transition period, but the latter was abolished with the advent of monarchs like Korascuto. In place of dagatos and larikai, the akassos or king became the ultimate head of state, unto whose authority all clans must submit. Despite this, akassai usually only had direct control over single cities or tracts of riverland, and had to rely on tribal vassals to administer their authority elsewhere.
The earliest traces of Irian ceramic culture that have been uncovered date back the first quarter of the second millennium AE. For most of this period there is no other evidence of Irians living in the area. Therefore, pottery has proven invaluable to archaeologists studying prehistoric and early historic Iria. Most of the archaeological remains have been found at two sites called Jotaro and Irukon, near Corascuto.
"In spite of the abundance of evidence, we remain unable to say exactly when Irian culture and innovation first arose. This discovery is an important step forward in understanding the cultural origins of ancient Iria," said archaeologist Jurgen Schone.
Pottery of the Ludian conquest period reflected the unique tastes of the Ludian nobility, depicting scenes of a grotesque and sexual nature that would be considered taboo among the "civilized" Irians. Religious imagery was common, as well as geometric motifs. The Ludians introduced the practice of honoring gods with wooden idols and small icons. They traditionally cremated their dead and stored their ashes in stylized urns within small, simple cemeteries. This custom sometimes superseded the elaborate burials practiced by the Irians.
Irians generally shared the same basic language, which was subdivided into dialects. The Aiolu dialect of Aigeum was the predominant tongue in Thrydacia for the first 500 years of its history, until it was replaced by Ludic Irian. Initially the language of the new ruling elite in the wake of the Ludian conquests, Ludian words filtered into Thrydacia and became intertwined with Irian grammar, forming the Ludic Irian dialect.
The speech of Solcia was mired with Ludic influences. It was far less mutually intelligible than other dialects, and can be more accurately called a separate language in its own right.
Western Iria and Ceta spoke in a distinct dialect known as the Raione. Unlike its neighbors, it was not influenced by Ludian.