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Military Conquest Doesn't Always End in Defeat

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One Horse Town:

You know the drill, the Cronarian Empire is sweeping all before it and making vassals and slaves of any survivors. Well, on the surface that can easily be seen to be the case, however, if you delve below the surface of the Empire, it's policies and politics is almost guaranteed to be more complex than simple subjugation.

For example, in the early expansionist days of the Ottoman Empire, the means of transferring and ruling lands was markedly different to the Western European norm. Whereas in, say France, a noble could trace the ruling line of his family back generations and most land holdings were held in perpetuity, the Ottomans had no such system.

Lands conquered by the Ottomans was normally divided up between the nobles who were most important in the taking of that land and once they died, that parcel of land was up for grabs again. No inheritance was guaranteed unless the Sultan decreed it, and he very seldom did.

This leads to an interesting dynamic in the conquering Ottoman armies, where units of conquered men led by disinherited European nobles fought tooth and nail beside the Ottomans in later battles in neighbouring lands in the hope that their bravery would lead to some (if not all) of their ancestral lands being bestowed upon them once more – albeit under a vassalage agreement with the Sultan. If they were successful and ruled the lands well, then they kept it, but upon their death, suddenly the sons of the deceased ruler would have to ride out once more in the Sultan's army.

It's an interesting system and one that lends itself well to gaming. Conquest need not be the end of your rule.

If we were to take the Ottoman example further, more often than not, they allowed freedom of worship in the lands they conquered, not only to ease ruling the recently conquered peasants, but also to make it easier for returning nobility to take up the reins of power and to keep thoughts of rebellion subsumed. A happy conquered realm is a peaceful conquered realm, as long as you sign all these documents in triplicate and pay these taxes...

Bureaucracy is the glue that keeps it all hanging together. Although you might be back on your ancestral seat, you can't attend that tribal meeting in the lands next door without the requisite travel documents. Again, in gaming terms, forgery becomes important. If you can forge the papers and the seals, then you can move about to accomplish your goals.

Perhaps the most famous method of the Ottomans in keeping conquered folk quiet was the method of taking the eldest son of each family (usually noble-born ones) to form the Janissary corps. These units of basically kidnapped children were indoctrinated in the ways of the empire, given education and training that they could only dream of back home and then used as another part of the army.

Janissaries were generally compliant, as they knew no other life, but discord was not out of the question. Perhaps the most famous rebel was Albania's national hero Georgi Castrioti, named Eskander Bey by the Ottomans (a corruption of Alexander and a clue as to how highly they rated his military skills) and simply known as Skanderbeg by Christian Europe.

On hearing of the ravaging of the lands of his father, he lead his unit of Albanian janissaries past the borders of the Empire on forged papers, raising the siege of his homeland and resisting the Ottomans for a further 20 years.

So, if were we to take this model as the model of a conquering army in a game, there are many avenues for 'free' folk to utilise whilst appearing to be happy under the yoke. You might temporarily fight in the Empires wars to get your ancestral seat back, then play politics until you are strong enough to rebel (or even simply be a land grabbing mercenary in their company). You may be a Janissary corp at the heart of the Empire, trusted by a local Pasha and able to accomplish things by covert methods until you are ready to take back your freedom. You may even be low level functionaries at court devising travel plans and fake documents to move people and units around the conquered lands chess-like.

So, you see, being conquered by the Cronarian Empire actually gives you a lot of opportunity for adventure.

Dan, this is a great article! I would love for you to expand on these themes in either a forum thread or another article. There's some really fun ideas here.

One Horse Town:

--- Quote from: Spinachcat;779342 ---Dan, this is a great article! I would love for you to expand on these themes in either a forum thread or another article. There's some really fun ideas here.
--- End quote ---

Thanks, i'll see what i can do!

I've always wondered how other countries treated conquest, as most people in the west get a very narrow picture of how that worked.

Another thing to keep in mind is that conquest typically meant replacing the old nobility with a new one, but for most people life went on the same as before. The conquerors would usually keep the system of government in place, adopt the local customs, and if they were smart, let the common people carry on with their religions and rituals. The average farmer or small tradesman didn't really give a shit what the names or ethnic origins of his rulers were, so long as taxation and military service weren't onerous. The concept of the nation as one people is very much a development of the 19th century.


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