Episkopos

"Overseer", "governor", "daimyo"

Classical Period

The Empire of Gehennum is divided into 39 administrative districts called "episkopies". Each one is governed by an "overseer" or episkopos who supervises not only Imperial magistrates, but also the army and religious affairs. The episkopos holds office at the pleasure of the emperor, and is charged with enforcing the law, keeping the peace, collecting the taxes, supervising public works, organising the militia, appointing militia officers, managing leases of the imperial estate, etcetera. An episkopos is basically in charge of all aspects of the imperial government of a large area, ruling a population of half a million or so. It is a post with sweeping powers, commanding much patronage locally, and attracting a salary of sixty minai per year besides perquisites such as an official residence: a very dignified position.

Before the Civil War, members of the imperial family and other dynastai held many of the episkopacies, providing an aristocratic check on the imperial bureaucracy. But most of the imperial family was wiped out during the war or in the purges that followed it, and the emperor Regikhord IV (who was constantly at odds with the dynastai) pursued a policy of promoting episkopoi from among the kritēs of the episkopy, i.e. from among professional imperial servants.

An episkopacy is a magistracy, considered appropriate to men aged between forty and sixty. An episkopos is formally subordinate directly to the anakritēs, and imperial kritēs in his province are formally subordinate directly to him. That is, he is formally an officer of the anakritēs' department. But his supervisory authority places other departments within the episkopy under his oversight. The logistēs collects revenues and pays expenses for the khrysofylax: supervised by the episkopos. The stratēgos organises and commands the militias in the episkopy for the polemarkh: supervised by the episkopos. Even the tagmarkh of the imperial army tagma stationed in the episkopy is supervised by the episkopos.

For provincial eupatridai who would have little chance of attracting attention and patronage in Thekla, the court of their episkopos is the focus of most ambition. It is there that gentlemen are appointed hypokritēs, it is there that crucial leases on imperial estates are let.

Decadent Period

In the Decadent Period the actual power of the central government over the episkopoi who govern its provinces is feeble. While the emperor, the polemarkh, and the dynastai were struggling for power in Thekla, the episkopoi of the provinces slipped into practical autonomy. The emperor and the anakritēs are ciphers, and the episkopoi no more than vassals of the central government. In theory the episkopoi are still appointed by the Emperor, and they still send annual reports and protestations of diligence and loyalty to the anakritēs. But in practice the episkopacies are hereditary or at least family possessions, and the episkopoi are not subject to much interference in their running of affairs. If the polemarkh has proof of wrongdoing, especially treason, he can still dispose of an episkopos without the episkopy rebelling and the other episkopoi uniting against him. Even then any blatant attempt to stuff an episkopacy with one of his stooges will meet resistance. The episkopoi intrigue against one another, but they unite to prevent any great re-assertion of central power. Like European dukes and counts in the nadir of feudalism, or like Japanese daimyo under a weak shogun, episkopoi are great territorial lords only just subject to the empire of which they are in theory officers.

Episcopal authority over the archpriest, the numerous kritēs of his domain, and his logistēs are uncomplicated, but military matters are not straightforward. The polemarkh usually appoints the commander of the Imperial Army tagma in the episkopy, so the episkopos finds the Army unreliable. And though the episkopos appoints the stratēgos of the militias in his domain, militia are not suited to be bodyguards and political hatchetmen. Therefore nearly every episkopos maintains an agema of military retainers, drawn from the local eupatridai and serving in exchange for political favours and grants of leases on public land.

In this period the episkopoi are the source of all the patronage that most people are interested in, and men wishing for a political career go to their courts rather than to that of the emperor or the polemarkh. The episkopal courts are certainly where the leases of imperial lands are passed out, where krites and hypokrites are appointed, and where politēs are made and broken.


Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.