Ancient Mesallas (Origo Mundi)
|Languages||Old Messalian, Phoric, Locotian|
|Religion||Ancient Messalian Religion|
|Historical era||Mesallian Dark Ages -|
Ancient Mesallas (Éysaζas) was a civilization belonging to a period of Messalian history from the Dark Ages of the -2nd–1st centuries to the end of antiquity. The period was preceded roughly by the Late Bronze Age collapse of Sterikolian Mesallas (a period of time when the entire region was loosely under the dominance of the city of Sterikolos), and began with the rise of the Mesallian urban “Colis” (city) in the Archaic Period of the 1st century, and the colonization of the Kulonapades Basin. This was followed by Classical Mesallas, an era beginning roughly with the Yanno-Mesallian Wars of the 2nd century. After the conquests of Ioxemander the Great, Mesallian culture flourished across the ancient world, leading to the Mesallanistic Period. The Ancient Mesallas period would end roughly with the rise of the Syresian Republic in the tenth century, which saw Mesallas subjugated by Syres.
The culture of Classical Mesallas, especially its philosophy, had a strong impact on the surrounding ancient world, and as such the Mesallians are regarded as a seminal culture, which provided the foundation for modern Western culture and civilization. Mesallian culture game importance to knowledge, as science and religion were not separate, but rather a means of approaching truth and a closeness with the Mesallian gods. As a cornerstone of the ancient world, Mesallian thought played a pivotal role in nations such as Azoz, and numerous nations that succeeded the original Mesallian homeland.
The fall of the dominant Sterikolian civilization in the 12th century BC brought upon a period of stagnation and even regression, collectively known as the “Messalian Dark Ages”. During this time the old Sterikolian alphabet was abandoned, as well as other technological advancements. Widespread communication and trade was ended, with the region’s mountainous geography isolating the people of Mesallas into various self-governing communities.
Numerous city-states emerged, one of the largest being the city of Meshawti, which was a confederation of many small communities in the northwest. Others included the cities of Karissa in the mountains south of Meshawti, Agira in the strategic entrances to the peninsula, the warlike city of Nykos on the western coast, and numerous maritime powers, such as Isimos, Halatia, and Oximilos. The process of “Awonilism” (from the Old Mesallian for “together” and “house”), or the urbanization process in which several small settlements are amalgamated into a single urban center, was coined to describe the rise of many of these early city-states.
The early Archaic Period also marked the beginning of exploration and expansion outside the Mesallian homeland for the first time since the fall of the Sterikolian. Numerous colonies were founded around the Gabatrian Sea and beyond, and it is likely during this period that the Mesallians established trade with the outside world once more. In the west they established contact with the nation of Syres, while in the east and south they came into contact with the nation of Edom and Emalia.
After the foundation of most of the region's major city states, the period known as the "Age of Tyrants" began, as many of the early settlements of Mesallas came to be dominated by strong central figures. The except to this was the city of Agira, where the hereditary kings of the city were replaced by the Inkon, an appointed lord who ruled for life, and later for short terms in office. Although the region for the rise of tyranny in Mesallia is not fully understood, it is believed that one of the last remnants of the Sterikonian civilization was a landed nobility that was not particularly representative of the growing urban populations, and popular revolts led by those in command of the military ensued.
It is believed that during this time the Svenetepen in the city of Agira began to take its modern shape. Located within the city was a 150-meter high rock, that had been leveled off by the Sterikonian, and served as a location for a palace and a massive series of walls around the summit. During the Inkonship of Propyritas the Svenetepen was upgraded with a new fortress to guard the city’s water springs, and a temple complex at the summit, possibly in the location of the old Sterikonian ruins. The Svenetepen would develop into one of the most recognizable Mesallian buildings.
According to legend it was during this time that the Mesallians came into contact with the city of Diomia, which sparked a ten year conflict detailed across the epic poem The Seriad by the poet Barus, although historians to this day debate if this legendary conflict was rooted in any historical basis. It is likely that if such an event occurred, centuries of oral tradition led to the specifics being highly exaggerated.
According to the epic poem there was a powerful city-state across the Gabatrian Sea, known as Diomia. The city possessed a noblewoman named Pyra, who was said to be the fairest woman in the world. One day the deity Menacus appeared before her as a cloud and tried to seduced her. Pyra replied that she would wed Menacus in exchange for the power to unite the Gabatrian Sea. Menacus made it so, by calling up great disasters to befall the cities in that region, and Diomia’s armies were strengthened and sent to conquer the free cities. Meshwanti, Taorina, Naro, Karissa, Agira, and many more were subjugated. But soon after Menacus lost favor for Pyra and Diomia’s grasp over the region faltered as well.
An alliance of the cities of Mesallia banded together to capture Pyra and destroy the city of Diomia. According to legend for the next nine years the Mesallians besieged the city. Their camps outside the city became like permanent towns, with the Mesallians forced to farm the region, raid surrounding towns, and fight numerous proxy wars against Diomian allied states. During this time one of the Diomian leaders, Theta, slayed a Mesallian commander named Agelis, leaving the Mesallian named Leto with the duty to avenge his friend. When Leto met Theta on the field in the tenth year he slew the Diomian, despite yielding. As a result in subsequent stories Leto is depicted as a cursed individual, however, in the meantime the city fell as a result.
The destruction of Diomia has raised a number of questions for historians, as the exact location of the city is largely unknown. One theory is that the city of Diomia was actually the city of Emalia, or a colony of it. As the Emalians were a matriarchy, this would explain the prominence of the character Pyra, who the Mesallian poets either deliberately or mistakenly downplayed as not a full ruler. Whatever the case, it is clear that during this time the Mesallians and Emalians heavily interacted during this time, as the two cultures began to overlap in the east Gabatrian Sea. If the Diomian War did exist, the success of the Mesallians is backed by later archeological finds, which report that the outer Ema Delta was more so populated with Mesallian settlements than Emalian ones.
During the Archaic Period many of the region's most influential religious groups have their origins. Overall, it is likely that the exact mythos of the Mesallian religion evolved over time, and was not formally categorized until the likes of Tulicenis’ Histories of the Divine, written around the 175th Jafiad (the closest thing to a pan-Mesallian calendar system, equaling Year 900), but Archaic Period sources seem to indicate that groups such as the Water Merchants, who would become an important part of the region's religious customs, date to this period.
One of the earliest attributed legends is the story of Caniphon. He was a son of the ocean deity, and was trapped underground as a punishment, but crafty humans managed to free him by digging underground and finding evidence of him below. The earliest temple of Caniphon was constructed in the town of Cania, near Karissa, which was constructed on top of a natural aquifer. Early writings that have been uncovered from this period include what appear to be receipts for holy water, leading historians to believe that the town likely became prosperous due to selling water to the surrounding area.
Lavis, a Karissian historian, details the event in his History of Karissa, written several centuries later. He states that the town of Cania became dominated by the Water Merchants, a semi-religious mercantile organization that came to dominate the entire region’s water supply. Reportedly the Water Merchants established vast trade routes into the desert south of the Mesallians as well, trading with Edom, the desert nomads known as the Denivans, and the “Empire of Or”, a mystical kingdom that existed in the desert to the far south, although the historical authenticity of such a kingdom is debated. According to one hypothesis, during this time the Water Merchants traded as far south as the nation of Susanylon, which may be the so-called nation of Or.
The guilds of Cania became so powerful that the city’s government became dominated by them, and Lavis writes that the city came under the sway of “King Gis the Water Tyrant”. He reportedly used the city’s army, which was equal parts levies and “water zealots”, to cut off the water supplies of neighboring towns, in the hopes of establishing a dependency on Canian water. After years of conflict across the region, the city of Karissa eventually organized resistance to the Canians. Centuries later Karissa would become one of the most dominant military powers, and Lavis depicts this event as part of the military’s founding myth.
Whatever the case, the Karissa army managed to drive the Water Merchants out of Cania, and they largely fell into obscurity in their home region within a generation. Interestingly, the guild continued far to the south, retaining their control over the trade routes into the desert region During the several centuries later the Water Merchants and the Cult of Caniphon of the South would be instrumental in the Fall of Karissa. After the fall of Cania one of the main towns along Mount Jafion became the Shrine of Delona. The city became the center of the ancient Mesallian religion, featuring some of the largest temples of the time period.
Legend of Isingoma
According to the History of Karissa by Lavis, after the rise and fall of the Water Merchants came a man named Isingoma. According to legend he as a Karissan who was so good at singing and playing the lute, that he was able to lull people into following his will. At this time the King of Karissa was an elderly man named Crado, who was not swayed by Isingoma due to partial deafness, and ordered him to leave the city. Isingoma left but as he did the young people of the city followed him religiously, leaving the city without a generation of young people. Later historians have posited that a plague may have set in at this time, potentially as a result of the water trade upheaval, that was responsible for killing a large section of the population, as an explanation for this myth's origin. Additionally, this legend was also said to be part of the basis for Karissa’s identity as a warrior state with no tolerance of artistry or music.
Whatever the case, the Cult of Isingoma traveled south and away from Karissa. In need of food and shelter, Isingoma led his cult to Agira, and pressured by the giant mob amassed before the city, the city’s Inkon was forced to give in to the musician’s demands. Isingoma rose to predominance in the city, and attempted to marry Inkon Delaris’ daughter, Alanta. Delaris accepted on the condition that Isingoma traveled to the southern mountain shrine of Etopia, and slay the prophetic snake Dradraka. According to Lavis, at this time Etopia was home to a holy shrine of priestesses who could predict the future, due to a giant serpent who lived under the mountain, who would whisper to the priestesses. Delaris hoped that this would rid himself of the musician with him being consumed by the serpent, but nonetheless, Isingoma accepted.
At Etopia the mountain fortress was said to be too strong to assault, and no army dared to threaten the place. When Isingoma arrived, he managed to sneak into the chambers of the great serpent, and lulled it into a centuries long slumber from his playing. From a completely different account, the History of Nykos by Typhechon, a Nykosian army arrived at Etopia not long after to receive a prophecy, and heard that they would win in battle, only to be defeated afterword. Typhechon mentions that this sudden drop in the accuracy of the Etopian prophecies came because of the serpent’s whispers disappearing, leading historians to believe the drop in popularity of Etopia affected the entire region, with legends like Isingoma being used to explain this phenomenon. Lavis states that Isingoma returned to Agira to wed Alanta, but three years later succumbs to a slow-acting venom that the serpent bit him with. Isingoma’s would have many descendants in that short time, many of whom would become influential in the arts and in Agiran politics in the centuries to come.
Settlement in the East
During this time the region's cities launched colonization efforts in the east, with some Mesallian cities rising to prominence by conquering new cities in this region. The story of the Diomian War appears to be influenced by this push east, and the conflict it often brought between native peoples such as the Emalians. Around the Ema Delta there were cities such as Ephenus, Idasimos, and Ghanis, while north of the delta Naro, Taorina, and Milenis dominated the islands, all founded between Year 1 and 50.
The official record of the kings of Naro report that the native kingship abruptly ceased about 50 years after the city was founded, and did not continue again until a few decades later. This seems to be explained by a historian from Idasimos (east of Naro) named Feno, who claims that around this time the eastern islands of the Emalian Delta fell under the sway of a powerful dictator, who united the islands between Naro and Elissa. According to Feno this brought them into conflict with the nation of Heratia, as they controlled the eastern edge of the delta. Heratia would have been heavily weakened at this time, as historians have cross combined the accounts of Feno with the Yannian writer Ninedera, to determine that Heratia was involved in the chaos following the breakup of Asaymocenis.
As such the loss of the western cities came as no surprise, leaving Heratia to the capital in the far south, Iseisalia, as its only connection to the coast directly. The “Kingdom of the Delta”, a name given by historians, appeared to center around the city of Marlios, located within the entrance to the Emalian Delta on the eastern coast.
The Cult of Lementer is traditionally dated to have been founded in this time, roughly around Year 100. The cult likely formed as a small group of farmers in the inland regions of the peninsula, but later grew into a major religious movement, with branches all around the ancient world. The Temple of Intemba became one of the key centers of the religious cult, and annually secret ceremonies and other events would be held in the confines of the ancient temple. The exact rituals of the cult were hidden from the public, with the cult operating as a sort of “secret society” for the most elite members of the region. It is recorded that at during the early days of its spread, at least two elected Inkons of Agira were secretly Lementerians, which when revealed created great controversy in the city.
About a decade after their rise to preeminence the first temple to Lementer was founded outside Mesallas, with the Cult of Lementer founding one in the city of Edom. The largest temple during this period, the Temple of Lysandria was also constructed, becoming a major religious center in the ancient world. The cities of Lysandria and Edom would remain two major hotbeds for Lementarian activity for much of their existence, with their other strongholds being comparatively more in flux.
Very little was known about the early history of the temple there, until the discovery of the “Ridon Sea Scrolls”, a series of well-preserved documents that detailed among other things the history of the Cult of Lementer. It is said that during this time the cult came into conflict with the Water Merchants, and a secret war of assassinations and intrigue began in the city. At this time the Water Tyrant of the city (an honorary/self-introduced title that referenced the earlier days of the Water Merchants) was Caqua al-Cania, who ordered a series of 11 assassinations during the Holiday of Gharis.
The Lementarians retaliated by bribing the city’s government to arrest and execute the Water Tyrant, while their temple began construction. One of the high priests of Lementer met an untimely end a year later, when Caqua al-Cania’s eldest son, Amlanbo, ambushed the cultists during a missionary trip to Edom. Both sides established an extensive spy network across the region, with a private army of zealots and mercenaries forming. One of the notable battle of this time came at the Battle of the Deosa Oasis, where two groups of nomads, each bought by one of the factions, battled in the desert.
After the death of the ruler of Lysandria, the succession became contested, with each of the factions supporting a different candidate. The Water Merchants backed Soter, while the Lementerians backed Nemos, beginning a brief civil war in the city. Ultimately both claimants would be dead within the year, with a most distant pretender, Ptemanis, taking the throne, and cracking down brutally against both factions. The Cult of Lementer won out in the end, remaining an influence in the city, while the Water Merchants of Lysandria were largely taken over by Water Tyrant Lorhan, who moved the center of the faction farther south.
Founding of Usinilago
While the Mesallians turned their attention east, in the west the Lydonian Sea came to be dominated by a civilization of “southerners”, who likely came to settle the southern coast after migrating from Susanylon or from the lands of the Denivans. The nation became known as louneosas, and ancient records and archaeological finds have confirmed that the kingdom was highly distinct from the Mesallians. Their capital was “The New City”, or Usinilago.
In the third year of the 191th Jafiad (equaling Year 966) the Ancient Mesallian epic known as the Eliriad was written by the author Herphon. Part of the legend told throughout the epic provide insight on the early history of Usinilago. The story claims that in the early years of the city’s existence it became under the rule of a powerful queen named Danobia. One of the heroes of the ancient Dioman War, named Leonas, traveled to the city of Usinilago and was wed to the queen, beginning a one-half Mesallian dynasty in the city.
After the death of Danobia the rule of Leonas became increasingly unpopular, leading to a coup to reinstate a native ruler in the city. Leonas fled from the city and fled to the Mesallian city of Lira, where he managed to convince the ruling king there, Haron, to back his claim. Haron’s invasion force arrived from the east. According to legend the supporters of Usinilago’s new king, Jaqnisin, prayed to the elder god Varin, who told Jaqnisin in a dream how to protect the city. Jaqnisin and his men stood outside the city in a line, each equipped with a trumpet. When the sun rose on the morning of the battle they blew their horns, and one by one the army of Haron fell on the battlefield before reaching the city. Leonas fled back to Lira, while the city of Usinilago became ruled by Jaqnisin.
Although the story presented by Herphon in the Eliriad is likely ficticious, it shows the poor relationship that oftentimes existed between the new state of louneosas and the Mesallian nations, with multiple well recorded wars occurring throughout its history.
Arrival of Ulmism
In the mid tenth century BC the Mesallas region became increasingly engrossed by the influences nearby foreign powers and their culture, as the region became more open to trade and interconnected with the greater world. In the west the Ulm Religion emerged in the Kingdom of Azoz, and eventually spread to parts of Mesallas. The spread of the religion was spearheaded by early church figure named Levian, who traditionally held to be Levian of Syres, who is referenced in the earlier Gosepl of Ishbakin. According to this account, Levian came to prominence in the city of Syres for preaching a non-orthodox interpretation of the Ulm faith; that the Prophet Nelrim must have been a spiritual illusion, rather than a physically reanimated body. In the gospel it is said that Nelrim traveled to Syres personally, telling Levian, "take your hand and feel my neck and my hands ... a spirit does not have flesh and blood as I do".
While Ulmian legend holds that this same Levian was then responsible for spreading the religion across multiple countries, the historicity of the early Ulm religion during the “Apostolic Age” is debated by historians. In particular modern scholars tend to agree that “Levian of Nykos” was likely a separate author than the Syresian-born apostle. The evidence for this is an account stating that Levian ventured to the city of Darna around this time, and a second account of Darnan origin claiming that a “prophet” was enslaved and later killed. Likewise, a branch of the church in Darna, formed many years after the fact, claimed to originate from “Levian the Martyr”. If this is the case then Levian would not have been able to travel to Mesallas during the later years in his life.
Regardless, according to tradition, Levian settled in the city of Nykos after traveling around the ancient world, and several primary sources from the region seem to confirm the historical events detailed in the Ulm scripture according to Levian. In particular there is an account from Erinys, a Meshwatian author, who writes of the “foreign disturbance preached in the streets of Nykos” during the reign of Massisni VI, and a later edict from the city of Lysandria, which stated that an individual by the name of Levian was exiled from the city. It is likely that due to Lysandria’s reputation as “a theological melting pot” Levian would have been drawn to the city, assuming he was not already from there.
Chronologically the first epistle attributed to Levian took place in the city. Among other things, it mentions the salvation from death through the Ulm religion and the transformation of its believers. Interestingly, the Ridon Sea Scrolls contain an early copy of part of this epistle, as well as details on the political climate at the time. Initially the new religion was seen as outside the pantheon of the Mesallas religion, which sparked disapproval from the religious authorities within the city. Mesallian writers commonly would state that in Mesallian culture all deities were seen as technically valid, with great efforts often given to connect foreign deities to Mesallian ones through personality and attributes. However, it is unclear how widespread this belief was at this time.
As such the history of the Cult of Lementer states that a “kiss to the ground” was offered (a popular euphemism in Mesallian literature was that of the warrior “kissing the dirt” upon dying in battle, and as such the cultists practiced the ritual of literally kissing the ground before ordering an assassination.), but the assassination attempt failed. This event would also appear in Levian’s own writing, which detailed how God’s intervention saved his life from evildoers. This prompted Levian’s attempt to connect Lementer and the god of the Ulm religion, although this became a challenging feat.
The author Fastius, who lived some six centuries after the events, wrote that Lementer had the following attributes in his seminal work on Mesallian mythology:
- Lementer appears as a horse in the dreamworld, and is seen before one dies peacefully in their sleep, which although a positive, is also the source of nightmares, as people fear they will die in their dreams.
- Lementer is the creator of the unwritten law (the cultural values, as opposed to the written justice).
- Lementer is chthonic in nature, for inhabiting the underground realms.
- Lementer carries many faces, symbolized by the followers who wear masks over their faces.
- Although most importantly to Levian, Lementer ruled over the dead and guided them, granting the power over life and death, not unlike the deity of the Ulm religion, who was said to have been able to grant salvation from death.
It was after this time that Levian was exiled from the city and turned to the city of Nykos, preaching frequently and writing theological texts on the nature of God and connections to Lementer.
An unlikely source for the events of Levian in Nykos is the play Danonis Cols by Solonus, which details a fictional situation in Nykos that is believed to have been inspired by real world events in the city, specifically the upheaval caused by the arrival of Ulmian converts. Although the play is fictional, the Ulmist writer Ignapius, who was an early preacher in the church around the time of Levian’s death, mentions how the church grew during the time of the “beggar turned to a king”, and other details related to the play’s story.
The following are important works that are used to piece together the history of Mesallas:
- Histories (c. 485 - 470) - Parius (c. 530 - 470): Considered the founding work of history in Mesallian literature, with Parius being known as the “Father of History. This text consists of several chapters which were updated until Parius’ death, detailing the region’s major events up to that period. The text especially details the following:
- The Dawn of Mesallas (c. 1000 - 900) - the founding of Meshwati and the first war in history, between Karissa and Meshawti.
- Seriad - Barus: One of Mesallas’ greatest oral traditions, and the defining member of the epic genre. The Seriad details the Diomian War, which saw a war between the Mesallian states and the nation of Diomia. The historical authenticity of the Seriad is debated by historians.
- Histories of the Divine (c. 100) - Tulicenis (133 - 95); A work detailing the mythological origin of the Mesallian people, and categorizing the specifics of the Mesallian pantheon.
- History of Karissa - Lavis; detailing the history of the city of Karissa. This work is also used as the source for the following events:
- The Legend of Isingoma - the story of Isingoma and his slaying of Dradraka, the prophetic serpant of Etopia.
- History of Nykos - Typhechon
Ancient Mesallas consisted of numerous nations with their own identities, cultural differences, and regional dialects, largely as a result of the region's geography. With the region largely dominated by mountainous terrain, the most prominent cities tended to be founded in the valleys between mountains or on coastal plains, with the amount of farmland each city could possess playing a large part in their future growth and power.
The main division in the region is between the "Twin Peninsulas", which refer to the Melopenes, the peninsula in the east, connected to the mainland at the narrow Isthmus of Agira, and the Gudumanes peninsula, separated in the west by the Lydonian Sea. East of the Melopenes is the Gabatrian Sea, which ends at the region of Emalia in the east. Both seas contain numerous island chains, which also played an important role in the region's geography.
The Melopenes is further broken down into smaller regions. The northernmost region, consisting of everything north of Mount Jafion, is known as Temengha, it is bordered in the southeast by Belaria, and in the southwest by Entabia. The region in the south, where the peninsula connects near Agira, is known as Krovia.