The Empire of Videssos, also known as the Videssian Empire, was a vast empire located on a distant unknown world where magic existed as a usable force. Videssos was an absolute monarchy, ruled by an Avtokrator or Emperor.
The Emperor was assisted by a numerous, influential bureaucracy, which was powerful enough to have been able to enforce its choice for the throne, even in the face of military opposition; the bureaucracy and military were traditionally rivals for power and influence.
Videssos, the City and Empire
The empire was centered on Videssos the city, which was located on a peninsula that nearly separates the Videssian Sea from the Sailor's Sea. The empire was divided in two halves by the Cattle Crossing, the waterway that connected the two seas. Videssos was located on the eastern half, which lay south of the Astris River and bordered Khatrish. To the west were the Westlands, a knobby peninsula that contained the bulk of Videssian territory and bordered Vaspurakan and Makuran.
Videssos maintained an outpost called Prista, on a peninsula that jutted out of southern Pardraya and into the Videssian Sea. By the time of the arrival of Marcus Aemilius Scaurus and his men, the Empire was 1,200 years old. At its height, the empire stretched from the bay of Haloga to the border with Makuran. Agder, Kubrat, Khatrish, and Thatagush were all part of the empire, but were lost when the Khamorth invaded the empire. Vaspurakan was also part of the empire but was lost to Makuran. Namdalen was conquered by the seafaring Halogai and became an independent Duchy.
Government and Bureaucracy
The Empire of Videssos had a complex and often confusing system of aristocracy and bureaucracy. At the apex of the pyramid stood the Videssian Emperor or Avtokrator, sole ruler and divinely ordained, and beneath him a multitude of officials and court functionaries operated the administrative machinery of the state. The entire ensemble of bureaucrats of the Empire were powerful enough to enforce its choice for the throne, even in the face of military opposition. The bureaucracy and military were traditionally rivals for influence over the emperor, and by extension, the empire.
Directly beneath the position of the Avtokrator there was the Sevastokrator, which was essentially a Vice Avtokrator (or Vice Emperor), and the Sevastos, which was essentially the prime minister of the Empire. Another figure of great importance within the policies of the empire was the Patriarch, the foremost spiritual leader of the Cult of Phos in the Empire of Videssos.
The governmental and bureaucratic system of the Empire of Videssos was rather well-known to have a penchant for intrigue, plots and assassinations and an overall unstable political state of affairs. Usurpation and overthrowing the reigning ruler was not at all an unlikely event for Videssos and was considered to be the only way to gain actual political change in an autocratic and highly bureaucratized system such as that of the Empire.
Everything within Videssian life centered around religious beliefs. The most widespread belief was in the dualist faith of Phos, whose nature was inherently good, and the evil Skotos. Light and darkness were their respective manifestations. The core of this faith is that Phos and Skotos will battle and only one will emerge.
Phos and Skotos warred not only in the sensible world, but within the soul of every man. Each individual had to choose which he would serve, and on this choice rested his fate in the next world. Those who followed the good would ascend to Phos' heaven when they died and gain an afterlife of bliss, while the wicked would fall off the Bridge of the Separator into Skotos' clutches, to be tormented forever in his icy hell.
Yet even the eternal happiness of the souls of the deserving might be threatened, should Skotos vanquish Phos in this world. Opinions over the possibility of this differed. Within the Empire of Videssos and the kingdom of Agder it was orthodox to believe Phos would emerge victorious in the ultimate confrontation (a belief that earned them the nickname "Cocksures"). Other sects, however, were less certain.
- Duchy of Namdalen - the fight between the two gods is balanced, but you should stake your soul on the favorable outcome of Phos. Slang "Gamblers."
- Thatagush, Khatrish, and Kubrat - the fight between the two gods is perfectly balanced and what you believe or do makes no difference. Slang "Balancers".
- Vaspurakan - believe that they and their land was founded by Vaspur, son of Phos. Slang "Princes." Vaspurakan is not a proper country, lying in between the Empire of Videssos and Yezd. It has been torn claimed by both sides at numerous times.
- Yezd - Skotos will emerge victorious. Yezd is the resulting country from a nomad invasion of the Makuran Empire by nomadic Yezda led by Avshar, high priest of Skotos.
The basic prayer of those who followed Phos was "We bless thee, Phos, Lord with the right and good mind, by thy grace our protector, watchful beforehand that the great test of life may be decided in our favor." To this those of the Duchy of Namdalen appended "On this we stake our very souls." Often the followers of Phos uttered this prayer after spitting angrily on the ground and lifting their arms and eyes to the sky.
Every town, city, and village in the Empire has a temple of Phos. These range from the byzantine High Temple in Videssos the City to the multitude of village chapels whose only administrator is a travelling priest that stops by once a week. Most pious households also have a small shrine of Phos, and wayshrines line the Empire's roads. The distinctive features of every temple of Phos were the blue-painted spire topped by a gilded ball, which represented the sun, symbol of Phos.
The outworlder Gorgidas postulated that the variants of the Phos belief stemmed from political and ethnic reasons rather than true belief. For example, he noted that Vaspurakanur belief in their direct descent from Phos was a way to separate themselves from Videssos . The Balancer beliefs originated in the areas of the Empire subjected to barbarian invasions. Those who survived these centuries of attacks were no longer certain of the inevitable victory of Phos.
Year Zero: Videssos the city and later the empire is established.
Not long afterwards, Kveldulf the Halogai attempts to convert his fellow Halogai to Phos, but is martyred in the attempt.
Zero+400: Grand Domestikos Stylianos launches a rebellion against Avtokrator Maleinos II, plunging the empire into civil war. Maleinos pulls the garrisons from the towns and cities and Stylianos recalls border guards to help them fight one another. This conflict weakens Videssos so much that the Khamorth nomads of Pardraya manage to enter and invade the north-eastern provinces of Videssos, sacking Skopentzana. Makuran also manages to seize Vaspurakan from Videssos. Prelate Rhavas of Skopentzana turns from Phos to Skotos. Stylianos defeats and kills Maleinos, becoming Avtokrator.
Over time, the nations of Kubrat, Khatrish and Thatagush emerge from the lands the Khamorth invaded.
Not long after this war ended, the Vaspurakaner rebel Andzeratsik (the Videssian style name he took was Kalekas) attempted to seize power in a civil war and lost about 150 years before the Time of Troubles.
Zero+550: Avtokrator Likinios spreads gold among the Khamorth of Pardraya, enticing them to attack Makuran. The ploy succeeds and the Khamorth trap and destroy a great Makuraner Army under Peroz King of Kings, weakening Makuran and allowing a usurper named Smerdis to seize the throne and imprison Sharbaraz, Peroz' son and heir.
Abivard son of Godarz, disgusted at Smerdis, helps free Sharbaraz and launches a rebellion to put Sharbaraz on the throne of Makuran, but they are beaten and driven into Videssos where they implore Likinios for aid. Likinios assists Sharbaraz by sending General Maniakes to help. Sharbaraz beats Smerdis and becomes King of Kings of Makuran.
Likinios is overthrown and killed while forcing his army to stay in Kubrat. Genesios becomes Avtokrator. Makuran invades Videssos, seizing Vaspurakan and the Westlands, prompting Maniakes to rebel and overthrow Genesios, becoming Avtokrator and saving Videssos from Makuran.
Zero+700: Avtokrator Rhaptes dies and is succeeded by his son Anthimos III under the regency of his uncle Petronas. Krispos rises to prominence in Videssos. Harvas Black-Robe leads an army of Halogai, rampaging across Thatagush and then Kubrat upon the invitation of Petronas so he can invade Makuran. Krispos helps Anthimos remove his uncle. Anthimos attempts to slay Krispos by magic, but fails and kills himself. Krispos becomes Avtokrator and defeats Harvas and conquers Kubrat. He also crushes the Thanasiot rebellion.
During the next five hundred years, minor border changes occur between Agder and Halogaland and between Khatrish and Thatagush. Haloga pirates conquer the Videssian island province of Kalavria, becoming the new nation of Namdalen and the Phos' Wager theology flourishes.
Zero+1100: Avtokrator Khoirosphaktes establishes a fort in Pardraya on the Kouphis River as a gift to a powerful Khamorth khagan. It was abandoned after his death.
Zero+1150: The Arshaum invade western Pardraya, driving the Khamorth over the Shaum (formerly Mylasa) River. Avshar (Rhavas) uses magic to slay Varahran King of Kings of Makuran and allows a Khamorth clan called the Yezda to invade and conquer Makuran and Vaspurakan. Avshar establishes himself as a prince in Yezd (formerly Makuran) and teaches the cult of Skotos to the Yezda who begin raiding and attacking Videssos.
Zero+1200: Avtokrator Ioannakis III is replaced by Avtokrator Strobilos Sphrantzes who in turn is overthrown by Avtokrator Mavrikios Gavras. The Roman Legion under Marcus Aemilius Scaurus arrives in Videssos. Mavrikios goes to war with Yezd but is defeated and killed by Avshar, allowing Ortaias Sphrantzes to seize the throne. Thorisin Gavras overthrows Ortaias and becomes Avtokrator, beating rebellions by Baanes Onomagoulos and the Great Count Drax. Avshar overthrows Khagan Wulghash of Yezd and launches and all out war to destroy Videssos but is stopped by Patriarch Balsamon, Marcus Scaurus, Viridovix son of Drappes, and Avtokrator Thoirisin. Avshar is defeated forever and the Yezda withdraw to Yezd proper.
- The Videssian Empire is very similar to the Byzantine Empire, and much of its history and geography is analogous to Byzantine history. The main differences are the religion, the existence of magic as a usable force, and some details of the history of surrounding states. These states strongly resemble neighbours of Byzantine Empire - for instance Makuran is Sassanid Persia and Vaspurakan is Armenia (Vaspurakan is in reality a historic Armenian province). The map shown of the known world in the time of the various Videssos stories is a very loose east-for-west flip-flop of the Mediterranean.
- The Videssian emperors and their history strongly resemble the Byzantine emperors.
- Genesios is the usurper Phocas;
- Maniakes, the main protagonist of the Time of Troubles series is emperor Heraclius, and the name recalls the famed general George Maniakes;
- Anthimos III, the dissolute emperor, is Michael III the Drunkard;
- Krispos of the Tale of Krispos series is Basil I, with elements from John I Tzimiskes and Basil II;
- Mavrikios Gavras of the original Videssos Cycle resembles Romanos IV Diogenes, and the two rivalling imperial families, the Gavras and the Sphrantzes, are analogous to the Komnenos and the Doukas dynasties.
- The Videssian Empire is rather feudal, with powerful landowners wielding great influence. The class of yeoman farmers, who provided much of the best recruits for the military, is dwindling, analogously to what happened at several stages of Byzantine history.