Sultanate of Damascus
|Sultanate of Damascus|
|System of Governance:||Sultanate, Pharaonic formal Head of State|
|Leader(s)||Nectanepho IV, Pharaoh of All Damascus. Sultan Sayf-da din Saban.|
|Primary Religion:||Nikirian Pantheon|
|Languages||Nikirian, Thracian, Damascan|
|Majority Races||Human, Felinae|
|Real World Influence:||Egypt|
A land with a history and a civilization as rich as any in the world, Damascus is the most modern incarnation of a nation as old as recorded time, home to some of the finest and most dramatic monumental architecture ever created. the nominal head of state rules from the ancient palaces of Nekhen. This is the Pharaoh, Nectanepho IV, a position of formal and symbolic significance but little political power. Political power is instead held by the Sultan, Sayf-da din Saban, who reigns from Alexandria.
Damascus is located in northern Meridia, bordered by Thracia on the east, Songhai and Cartagenna to the west, and the vast wild forests and mountains of Kategonia (Cuauhtla) to the south. Mostly sweeping, sandy desert, the inhabited lands of Damascus huddle close to the bountiful Nikirian river which serves as backbone and highway to the whole nation. The northern coast features more rivers and gentler watersheds, nearer to the bounty of the Mari Magno, but the bulk of Damascus's land is forbidding and dry.
The capital and largest city, Alexandria, sits upon the vast delta at the mouth of the mighty Nikirian river. It's is guarded by a remarkable and ancient lighthouse, the Pharos, which is considered a wonder of the world for its magnificent construction.
The people of Damascus are mostly a blend of Human and Felinae, with a substantial Barbari minority who roam the verges of the western deserts herding goats and camels. Felinae were among the first to colonize the river, and the Pharaohs have always been Felinae, albeit from a long and varied assortment of dynasties. Damascans live in a complex and chaotic social structure that values wealth, religious office, and education in interconnected ways that make it a very upwardly mobile society. Damascans are also infamous for having a blasé or permissive attitude about necromancy, generally speaking. Combining the lax attitude to necromancy with wildly independent Nomarchs and a laisse faire approach to slavery, Damascus has always been subject to a long series of rebellions, revolts, uprisings, and coups ever since subverting the absolute authority of the Pharaoh centuries ago.
Damascus has its own pantheon, though it is interconnected with or relative to the Thracian pantheon in many ways. The prime goddess, Ubasti, is even directly absorbed into Thracian religion, and the people of Damascus tend to embrace the worship of either system indiscriminately.
Modern Damascus is in a state of political turmoil, having spent recent years in a steadily increasing border conflict with its once-beloved neighboring nation of Songhai. Skirmishes began in 2014, and the conflict has been steadily escalating since that time. The difficulty arises from all the usual sources, with the Medjai of Songhai regarding the Nomarch of the deep desert province of Bahariya to be a threat to both their own sovereignty and that of Damascus itself, while the Sultan resents the interference. While not an outright declared war as of 2019, it may well become one in the near future.
Over a long and tumultuous history, Damascus has arisen as the most modern iteration of a long series of kingdoms, empires, and subject states. Life in Damascus revolves around the ever-flowing sacred river Nikiria, which makes the broad river valley that runs the length of the country flourish with grain and fruit-producing regions. The soil is replenished in annual floods, and tended by the extensive keeping of pigeoncotes to produce fertilizer, so that the fertility of the land remain eternal.
Many of the kingdoms that have come and gone in the history of Damascus, which for much of its time was named Nikiria after the river itself, have been oppressive, harsh regimes, but they have yielded a proud people with a singular outlook on life, death, the sacred, and profane.
There is a strong impetus towards insular community-thinking and loyalty to small ties. The royal family of the Pharaohs is seen as adjacent to the gods and ruling with absolute, god-like power over the rest of the people. Unquestioning and reverent loyalty to the pharaohs has been a religious tenet of Damascan society for so long that it lingers even in the modern era where the position has diminished in actual power and been functionally replaced by the rule of the Sultan. No monarch who wished to rule Damascus could remove the Pharaonic system entirely or cut off its power over the hearts and minds of the people, they can only slowly bleed it of actual command. Even now, were the Pharaoh to believe firmly enough in governance as his or her mandate, they could likely rise up and overthrow the Sultanate. However, a long campaign of influence has made the Pharaohs truly believe that their calling is one of the spirit, to protect and guide the souls of their people towards eternity rather than to steward their insignificant day-to-day lives.
Wealth beyond imagining has flowed through the kingdom for thousands of years. Gold mined in its southern mountains adorns fabulous temples unlike any other. The Nikirians have their own distinctive script and decorative modes, their own approach to reverence and adornment, and a singular climate to contend with. There is no place like it in all of Terra.
One must add to that the spectacularly cosmopolitan metropolis of Alexandria, where the Sultan rules from a magnificant palace overlooking an almost peerless harbor on the Mari Magno. With the Pharos shining out over the sea with an eternal flame and a collection of temples, forums, basilicae, and of course the massive edifice of the hallowed Library of Alexandria, the city is a jewel to rival Roma itself. Traders from every part of the known world gather in the markets of the sprawling city and anything can be bought or sold there. It has one of the largest slave-markets in the world, and a libertarian approach to the management of any commerce once the basic fees and duties have been extracted from merchants. Alexandria blends the wildness of a free port with the aristocratic cultivation of the elite cities of Thracia, meeting somewhere in the middle under a scorching sun along the banks of the longest and most prosperous river in the world.
The Nikirian Pantheon is profoundly distinct from that of the Thracians, with surprisingly little overlap despite the two nations close contact with one another. Consequently, Ubasti was brought in to the Thracian pantheon as patron Goddess of the Felinae, but the priorities were insufficiently aligned to make for much other crossover. In official Thracian terms, the Gods of the Nikiria are a subset of demigods under the Aegis of Ubasti, whereas to the Nikirians, the Thracian Pantheon is simply irrelevant and foreign.
There are a large number of major and minor deities revered by the Damascans who follow Nikirian faith, the most important of whom are listed on the Nikirian Pantheon page.
There are two functional sets of social strata that create interconnected but distinct chains of personal value in Damascus. These could broadly be described as a civic structure and a spiritual structure. On the civic structure side, there is a simple hierarchy relative to the importance of position wielded. This includes military personnel and officials, and the ranks extend from slave to sultan with a clear pecking order. Education is an important facet of obtaining civic status as well, and the well-to-do are expected to be not only moneyed but to be philosophers, rhetoricians, or scientists as well.
The spiritual significance and importance of a person is somewhat less clear-cut. Each cult of the Nikirian pantheon has within it a number of ranks and associate organizations that are internally consistent but do not interconnect. To determine the relative importance of two priests, for example, one must consider their relative importance within their own temple, the importance of that temple within the larger context of Nikirian religion, and the status of the God in question relative to the status of all the gods in ascendancy. The Pharaoh sits beyond doubt at the very top of this spiritual hierarchy, but there is a confusing web of ranking and relative worth beneath it. A slave might have fairly high standing in the service of Anope and be a fundamentally more important person than a wealthy magistrate who served as an acolyte of Mata. Additionally on the spiritual ranking of value is ones devotion to the arts, as the highest arts are those that honor the gods and enhance the temples as well as the public spaces of Damascus. Education, then, as well as creativity can factor into ones spiritual importance.
The ideal way to gain power and influence in Damascus is to maneuver upwards on both columns. Seeking spiritual importance by service and devotion to the temples helps enhance once importance in the eyes of the public, while impressing ones superiors gains status within the civic order of things. Staying within the lane of one or the other will yield only half-measures of power and influence.
Customs and Holidays
What days matter to the people
Arts and Exceptionalism
Organization of the Land
Divided into 19 provinces called Nomes, each ruled by a Nomarch, under the command of the Sultan.
History since the Dragon Wars
Major Modern Events
What events will have shaped the experience of characters having grown up there
The physical lay of the land