Fundamentals of government and politics

Gehennum is patriarchal. It is also a gerontocracy. In short, it is ruled by old men.

Government and politics, legislation and litigation are, like warfare, the domain of men. Women are not educated to the demands of participating in government in Gehennum, and are not allowed to vote or hold public office. On the other hand, they are not expected to serve in the army, nor made to pay shield-money if they do not.

Moreover, the Gehennese consider politics and tenure of public office to be proper only to men of a certain age. Men come of age, and get their voting rights in any public assemblies at the age of twenty. But they are not generally considered suitable to hold any official position except low-level command in the army until they are forty. Only after men have turned sixty and served with credit as magistrates and political officials are they considered eligible to be made priests.

In Gehennum it is considered a privilege to hold public office, and, with a few exceptions (for example in radical democracies in the Archaic Period), magistrates and priests are not paid. Since any post of real importance demands that the person who holds it devote some time to it, poor men are generally unable to hold important offices, even in areas where the government is officially democratic.

This description of Gehennum covers a period of four hundred years, during which there are three distinct periods with quite different governmental arrangements, the Archaic, Classical, and Decadent Periods.

The Archaic Period

First (about 4600 years After the Eldest of Days) is the Archaic Period, in which Gehennum is divided into hundreds of separate little states, each with its own city and army. The governments of these states include monarchies with absolute and constitutional rulers, oligarchies, aristocratic republics, plutocracies of landlords and traders, limited democracies, unlimited democracies in which the wealthy tend to monopolise public office, and radical democracies that pay salaries so that poor men can hold office.

These little states are often at war with their neighbours, and there are some powerful international combines of states. These include amphiktionies of which membership is more-or-less voluntary, and the members roughly equal, hegemonies that are dominated by one member state.

In the larger, more sophisticated States, where the burden of a public official's duties is considerable, only those citizens who have means independent of their own labour can afford to hold public office. In such states these eupatridai, the so-called "Good Families", tend to dominate the government, no matter what the constitution of the State might be. Only in the most radical democracies and the most repressive monarchies are the public officials paid, and in such states the Good Families greatly resent this measure.

The Gehennese distinguish three types of monarchs. The first, conceived of as possessing some divine quality of majesty, some real dynastic right to rule, is the anaxos. Supposedly descendants of powerful daimons, anaxoi are the most respected monarchs.

The second type, distinguished by the title basileos, is the primus inter pares of a state ruled by a number of families—the leading gentry or the royal houses of the state's constituent tribes. Such rulers sometimes have fixed terms in office, and their successors may be elected by [certain of] the gentry, or come from another family than their own.

The third type is the tyrannos, a monarch whose title goes back to a revolution or coup d'etat. Tyrants include the most popular and least popular of rulers. Some rule their domains by force, others allow free elections of their officers, and pay the elected officials.

Gehennese monarchs sometimes feel that they are not suited by age to exercise their power in all areas. For instance, the oldest monarchs feel unfit to lead their armies in the field, and the youngest feel out of place in the temples. For this reason, even in small states, it is common for monarchs to appoint officials (often relatives), to be their proxies in duties to which they feel unsuited. The proxy monarch who leads the army is the polemarkh, often a young man. The proxy monarch who sees to judicial and administrative affairs is the anakrites, usually a man between forty and sixty. The proxy monarch who oversees 'religious' matters and officiates at the most important public ceremonies is the hierarkh, usually a man between sixty and eighty.

It is not uncommon for Gehennese monarchs to abdicate for reason of age at eighty or even sixty years.

The Classical Period

The Classical Period is about two centuries after the Archaic Period. Thekla has succeeded in conquering Gehennum (though the fall of Bethan is within living memory). The resulting empire is ruled by the successors of the anaxoi of Thekla through a central bureaucracy and local episkopoi governing forty compact episkopies (each including several former states).

The descendants of former monarchs have become hereditary nobles with greater or less wealth, more or less prestige, and the titles kyrion, anaxos, and kreion. They have been joined in these ranks by certain faithful servants of the empire elevated by legislative act. These dynastai make up the Gerousia, which acts as supreme court and the upper house of legislature. The privilege of nobility is to be immune from trial except by the Gerousia, and extends to dynastai and their wives and children.

Executive government is in the hands of the Hegemon (Emperor) and his Boule (Council), which consists of six chief servants (usually dynastai). These are the Khyrsophylax, the Angelos, the Court Mage, the Polemarkh, the Anakrites, and the Hierarkh. Each heads a department of official secretaries, assistant secretaries, and clerks, based at Thekla.

In addition to heading their departments, the Polemarkh commands the armed forces, the Anakrites supervises all imperial magistrates, and the Hierarkh, all priests. The Angelos is in charge of the running of the Palace, foreign affairs (not that they matter much), and of Imperial dealings with the Gerousia and the Apella. The Khyrsophylax is usually the chief minister of the Emperor, if the Emperor does not see to the government himself.

For the purposes of Imperial government, Gehennum is divided into forty episkopies. Each is governed by an /episkopos (reporting to the Anakrites). The episkopos assisted by a Prefect Fiscal (who reports to the Khyrsophylax), and supported by a tagma of troops (whose tagmarkh reports to the Polemarkh).

The episkopoi are usually local nobles or relatives of the Emperor.

Imperial projects are executed, and the Emperor's Peace enforced, by salaried magistrates called krites (who have in theory the delegated power of the Hegemon) and their lictors. Prominent landowners in the country are appointed hypokrites to assist in keeping the Peace.

In what was perhaps a move calculated to diminish the powers of the dynastai, all cities have been granted democratic charters by the Hegemon, although the decision as to whether or not to salary public officials is up to the towns themselves, as is the extent of citizenship and the franchise. Cities are therefore all internally self-governing, and have more-or-less aristocratic republican governments.

When the Hegemon wishes to make a law, he summons a representative of each chartered city to make up the Apella, the lower house of legislature.

Metics are not distinguished by Imperial law, but by the laws of the cities. The voting privileges of the full citizen are exercised within particular cities only, so the concept of a 'citizen of Gehennum' is not a particularly meaningful one. Metics with political ambition move to those cities with easy citizenship qualifications, or attempt to win the favour of the voters in cities prone to enfranchise individuals by plebiscite. Once they are citizens of one city, Imperial law requires them to have the rights of citizens in any city to which when they then move.

The Decadent Period

The Decadent Period is about two centuries after the Classical Period. The Hegemon and the Gerousia have been relegated to purely ceremonial functions, and the reins of the central government are in the hands of an hereditary Polemarkh. While the House of Souvenir was seizing power in Thekla, the episkopoi took the opportunity to expand their authority and independence. The episcopacies are now hereditary, and the episkopies are practically autonomous.

Everyone pretends that the Hegemon is still in charge. The Polemarkh and the episkopoi all claim to govern in his name. But the episkopoi are beginning to indulge in wars for territory along their borders, and it sometimes seems that the entire empire is on the verge of collapse.

Society is now rigidly stratified, almost divided into castes. At the top are the Hegemon and the dynastai, hedged around with mystique and taboos that effectually insulate them from politics and power. Their incomes are immense, and they hold important-sounding posts at court, but they are political and social ciphers.

The House of Souvenir is unique: it holds the office of Polemarkh, and although of dynastic rank controls the Imperial government and provides the episkopos of Thekla. Daughters of the House of Souvenir often marry sons of the Hegemon.

Next down are the ruling families of the episkopies, locked in a perpetual struggle with one another and the House of Souvenir for land and prestige.

Next are the eupatridai, the 'good families', who support the episkopoi as warriors and receive magistracies and leases on Crown land in return.

Then the prosperous merchants and craftsmen who flourish in the cities and concern themselves with local government. Then there are journeymen, labourers, and peasants, the nominally enfranchised citizens. Then disgruntled metics and finally, slaves. These last two groups have no part in politics.

Although a pretence of democracy is carried out in the cities, the politics that really matter are those of the Polemarkh and the episkopoi. The polemarkhs exert themselves to recover central government, the episkopoi collaborate only enough to frustrate this aim—all in the name of the Hegemon. In the pauses of this great game, the episkopoi contend for territory.

Copyright © 1988-2004 Brett Evill. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.