Some aspects of this conculture are deliberately "unnaturalistic"; indeed, instead of imitating/exploiting what has been, I wanted to experiment with what could be. Of course, I am not an anthropologist or sociologist by any means, and most of you are probably more experienced and knowledgeable in these matters than I am, and I hope to be able to get at least some of you interested.
Criticism and questions are obviously more than welcome! :)
Their history is long and very little is known is factually known; the history of their development is mostly based on oral -- and later written -- tales and myths whose veracity is questionable. Either way, their full history is irrelevant to this thread, and we will keep it short and to the point.
The Proto-Urkha-Aangii people is thought to have migrated to the Northwest of the Eastern Continent before the first era, i.e. before the creation of the Roderan empire itself, the biggest and oldest empire in history. They led a mainly nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle, though some tribes living near the coasts also took part in fishing.
Farming was originally not practised, and is thought to have been introduced by migrants from a now extinct people, possibly sea-faring semi-nomads related to the inhabitants of the Ket'ets archipelago and the K'anerhtóh. Agriculture became more and more popular and widespread; the majority of tribes adopted a more sedentary lifestyle. Trade became more prevalent, between tribes and with neighbouring peoples, and trade routes were established.
From there, most tribes settled and formed small villages, though the richest tribes built entire cities that they were able to expand as they acquired more resources through trade, or by more imperialistic means. The richest, and biggest tribe of them all, Urakaa (which later gave the name Urkha), realising its power and influence on the other settlements, began the audacious project of assimilating their "brothers and sisters" into a single, unified empire. The Urkha now refer to this period as Nexpegh-la Xol, "the Great Unification". A majority of tribes saw the economic potential of becoming part of an empire led by the richest people they had ever seen, and accepted the offer, but the Urakaa were not afraid of using violence, or even coercion and boycott to force the more reluctant settlements to agree to their terms. Soon, the whole country was unified under one banner, one religion, one language, one supreme leader: the Matriarch. The people who did not speak their language (or even their dialect) were branded as ifra tes, "dirty tongues", an expression still used today to refer to foreigners in a derogatory and insulting manner.
A group of tribes did however not adapt, and were originally not assimilated to the newly formed Urkhan Empire: the ancestors of the Soo ta Aangii, who still lived a nomadic life, hidden in the Urkhan forests. In relative isolation from the other tribes, their language sounded different; their religious beliefs were also different. Their refusal to recognise the Urkhan Matriarch as their utmost and unquestionable leader, had they been any other tribe on their territory, would have granted them torture or genocide. But because the Urkhan knew they had nothing to be fear from the excessively pacifistic Soo ta Aangii, they decided against exterminating them, and preferred deporting them by boat to the nearest island, which they believed was uninhabited: Olita Ekema in Old Aangiian, also known as Rajnlokem.
Over the centuries, the Urkha consolidated and expanded their empire, waging war against whoever dared to oppose them, but also continued trading extensively, with the inhabitants of the Ket'ets islands, with other nations of the Eastern Continent, but also with Rodera, before they became enemies on the basis of a territorial dispute that took a turn for the worst.
The empress, referred to as Matriarch, is the supreme leader of the Urkhan Empire. Not only is she the political leader of the country, but also their most important religious figure. She is claimed to represent the will of their goddess, Mijxi (thought to be a compound of mij, love, and the personal pronoun ki; lit. "she who loves"), and to be able to hear Her demands. It is her prerogative to obey Mijxi's will, and to make decisions accordingly. Urkhan imperialism is almost always justified by religion (though the goal is obviously economic and political), and wars are exclusively started at the Matriarch's will -- or rather, Mijxi's will --.
The Matriarch obviously also holds all the political power within her hands, but because such a massive empire cannot possibly be ruled alone, her daughters (and/or designated women of the upper classes) take responsibility for the various provinces of the country. An organigramme summarising the "political ladder" of Urkhan society can be found in the next title.
The title of Matriarch is traditionally inherited from mother to daughter. The eldest daughter does not necessarily inherit, however; it is actually most common for the youngest one to access the throne to ensure the longest reign possible. She is also believed to have acquired the combined life experiences of all of her older sisters, and is therefore considered wiser and better suited for the task. In some rarer cases, the Matriarch designates someone to succeed her, that isn't a member of her family, to the request of Mijxi. One does not become Matriarch by force, one must have been officially and publicly designated as a successor to indeed be recognised by the rest of the population. Whatever happens, though, only women can be the head of the empire, as men have little to no political power.
Quick overview of Urkhan politics
The preceding organigramme summarises the different political roles an Urkha may play. They roughly correspond to social classes, or castes. The top classes have power over the ones below, and can decide for them. Disrespecting the decision of someone above you grants you imprisonment, torture or even death. Upward mobility is extremely limited.
- The Matriarch, at the very top of the ladder, is the most prominent political figure. She controls everything and whatever she says goes. To question her authority is to question God, and subordination is taken very seriously. Torture, death sentences or exile are all methods of dealing with traitors.
- Provincial Officials are responsible for one province each. They exercise their power in the name of the Matriarch, to whom they are accountable. At fixed, regular intervals, they must give a list of the decisions that they made, as well as of potential problems that need fixing, among other issues. The Matriarch has full control over her officials and can cancel out their decisions at any time. They are usually the daughters of the reigning Matriarch, but due to the sheer size of the empire, a number of them are designated by the Matriarch herself from city officials she deems fit and competent for the task. They can be fired at any time, at the Matriarch's discretion.
- City Officials, just below, represent their respective city or village. They are the de facto go-to when a problem has not been issued by a Provincial or Matriarcal decree. Their play the role of a judge, and their work is usually to fix inter-tribal feuds and disputes. More serious allegations or issues are transferred upwards. City officials are often Heads of Tribes elected by other Heads of Tribes following meritocratic principles, but some cities have a more hereditary system.
- The Head of a Tribe is the rightful representative of a tribe. Each tribe has its own system for deciding who will pull the strings. Heads of Tribes have very little political power; their main responsibility is to take care of mundane intra-tribal problems, and to inform their City Officials of bigger, more serious issues.
- The average Tribe member or Citizen is any woman born from another citizen (or anyone above in the political ladder). They play no political role whatsoever,
but have some basic rights that the class below does not benefit from (such as not being subjected to slavery; not being compelled to join the army or be a physical labourer own a house and have properties; etc.
- Foreigners are of course not legally citizens and will not benefit from citizen rights. They may be naturalised in some rare instances, but the best way for them to lead a fairly tranquil life is to amass wealth, avoid causing trouble and be useful to tribes. Though they will not have any legal recognition, few people will want to rid themselves off a valuable asset. Men on the other hand are at the very bottom and have no way to become citizens. Their wife, if not mother, is responsible for them, and they legally belong to them as property. Most men are compelled to join the army or to work as a manual labourer (farmer, builder, miner, etc). They have no legal status and can be disposed of at will.
From the aforementioned organigramme, one can infer the legal divisions inside of the Urkhan empire. Here is a list, in order of importance and size:
- The Empire itself, divided in a number of provinces.
- Provinces: large territory comprising a number of cities.
- City/village: settlement, group of two or more tribes. Can take various forms, from the large commercial city of over a dozen tribes, to the small farming village of two tribes.
- Tribe: group of one or more households, of related families or not. Household is understood as a couple and their children; family is understood as related people whose common ancestor is less than 5 generations old.
- Household: a couple and their children. The mother is responsible for the household.