Culture and History of Colovia

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Culture and History of Colovia

Post by Infragris »

The Colovians are one of the two dominant culture groups of Cyrodiil. They are a proud and austere people who inhabit the arid, underpopulated western highlands. While the Nibenese, their counterparts, are focused on diplomacy, trade, and high culture, the Colovians concern themselves with authority, strength, and military supremacy. Colovians consider themselves to be uncomplicated, self-sufficient, hearty, and extremely loyal to one another. They are disposed towards a sober, puritan worldview which scorns emotional or material excess, and adhere closely to the frugal virtues of Colovia: self-sufficiency, loyalty, obedience, piety, austerity, and common-sense patriotism.

While Colovians rarely venture into the political and mercantile spheres of Cyrodiil(without being assimilated by Heartlands culture, at least), they dominate the Empire's provincial interests: Colovians make up the bulk of the Imperial Legions, provincial colonists, missionaries in the Imperial Cult, and most governors and Legion officers tend to be of Colo-Nordic descent. As such, Colovian ideas tend to define the Empire in the provinces, even as Nibenese culture dominates the interior.

Internally, the Colovian counties tend towards a policy of self-sufficiency, cultural and racial purity, and isolation. They still possess much of the frontier spirit of their ancestors: settlements in the western Highlands are small, far apart, and mistrustful of outsiders. While Colovians defer to authority easily, they a quarrelsome and fractitious people when left leaderless: the history of Colovia is rife with internal schisms.

Between the western coast and the central valley of the Heartlands, Cyrodiil is mostly covered by deciduous forests and mangroves, becoming sparser towards the ocean. The Gold Coast and Gilded Hills regions bordering the Abecean Ocean are wet-dry areas, defined by vast grasslands, sparse forests and cliffs. Further inland, the dour and rainy Kvetchi Pass gives access to the interior, the rolling hills and forests of the West Weald, famed for agriculture. The Gold Road, most reliable of Colovia's trade roads, passes through here. The south, demarcated by the slow Strid River, is a soggy and unpredictable mangrove wetland.

To the northeast lies the vast Massiquerran Forest, traditionally considered one of Cyrodiil's three forbidden jungles (through the Colovians no longer adhere to the laws forbidding settlement). The forest stretches all the way to the north, past Chorrol, and consists mostly of deciduous woodlands. The forest interior is a treacherous wetlands known as the Ruma Floodlands, often considered to be the shifting border between east and west.

The western border is dominated by the eponymous Colovian Highlands, often considered the heartland of Colovian culture (despite it being mostly uninhabited). These ancient, eroded hillocks shield the fertile central valley from the harsh desert winds of Hammerfell, allowing the jungle to thrive. The upper ridges are scoured clean by desert winds, and are unsuitable to all but the hardiest of settlers. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Barrowlands, a barren, dusty plateau in the upper northeastern corner of the province.

These lands comprised the traditional Colovian Estates, some of which survive to this days as the Counties of Anvil, Kvatch, Skingrad, and Chorrol. Bruma and the region of Falkreath in southern Skyrim are often considered Colovian, though Nordic and Nibenese influence have weakened this connection. Other Estates once existed in Hammerfell, but these outposts were lost to the Ra Gada long ago.

Despite their misgiving about trade and cultural exchange as practiced in the east, the Colovians depend very much on the busy trade roads that intersect their domain. The Gold Road, starting from the port of Anvil and passing by Kvatch, Skingrad and Delodiil on its way to the Heartlands, transports trade goods from all the nations of western Tamriel. The Black Road, passing Chorrol and Mhorlagrad and going on to the northwestern provinces, is used by Redguards, Bretons, Orcs,and Nordic merchants who prefer the long trek to the western passages rather than brave Pale Pass.

Native industries of Colovia are focused on agriculture and raw materials. The northern Highlands of Chorrol feature many mines, marble and stone quarries, feeding the ever expanding Imperial City. Lumber camps and charcoal burners appear frequently in the Massiqueran. The area of Skingrad is a patchwork of fields, cattle ranches, and massive vineyards (wine being one of the most popular exports of Colovia).

The southwestern Highlands and Kvetchi Pass are mostly unfit for agriculture, save for a handful of farmsteads that line the Gold Road. The upper hills have numerous mines, though many are close to exhaustion. Livestock is more important here: goats, sheep, horses, and cows. The far west coast is also poor in industry, mostly due to a lack of population. Farms and settlements tend to converge along the Gold Coast – notably the famous orchards around Anvil. Coastal villages focus on fishing, while the border-city of Sutch is known for its salt production.

Colovian economy relies on taxation of the trade routes, and the exploitation of land. Both options benefit the Colo-Nordic upper class. However, their position is under threat. The mines, once a source of great wealth, are nearly depleted. Most Colovian land is arid and unfit for agriculture. Taxation privileges are threatened by merchant cooperatives and the centralized government out east. This economical vulnerability is partially responsible for the current wave of political and cultural isolationism, of which the Free Estates Movement is but one example.

The Colo-Nordic Nobility
These are the descendants of Nordic mercenaries who aided in the Alessian Rebellion and were given land claims on the western frontier in return. Their estates originally functioned on a segregated system, in which only those of Nordic blood could rule, own land, etc. While the old laws are now mostly abandoned, the Colo-Nords continue to dominate Colovian society. The archetype of a Colo-Nordic lord is that of an austere, vigilant general, guarding the borders of the Empire from one of the isolated cliff-fortresses that dot the upper ridges of the Highlands. Although most of these forts have seen little war in the last decades, Colo-Nords continue to serve as provincial governors or officers in the Legion. They avoid the excesses of courtly life, preferring a sober, unvarnished, and functional style which mirrors their disciplined character (and attests to the poverty in which many lords live).

Special note should be made of Legion soldiers and, to a lesser degree, mercenaries and Fighters Guild members. Colovia is the most important recruiting grounds for the Imperial Legions: every year, thousands of young Colovians make the pilgrimage to the application offices in Mhorlagrad to begin their training. To the upper class, the Legions represent the prestige of officer status, political connections, and the traditions of conquest and governance. To the lower class it offers a steady pay, a pension, and the possibility of attaining a higher rank (and thus, nobility status). The influx of Legion salaries forms a significant part of Colovia's economical life, especially in the hinterland.

To have a son or daughter in military service is a point of exceptional pride, and Legionaries enjoy many special privileges in Colovian towns: lower prices, better treatment in inns, taverns, brothels and gambling houses, and even protection in the eyes of the law. Legion soldiers insist on such treatment, and are known to harass or avoid businesses that do not give them the deference they are owed – much to the annoyance of foreigners and merchants.

Colovians do not have much respect for merchants and traders, in part due to their ancient rivalry with the trade-oriented Nibenese: to the Colovians, a preoccupation with trade implies Nibenese values, notably, accommodation and extensive contacts with foreign cultures. Most Colovian traders are actually foreigners, especially Redguards. The trade houses and caravan companies of Hammerfell have a disproportionate influence on Colovia, further fueling Colovian xenophobia.

Making up the vast majority of the Colovian population are common laborers: farmers, herders, miners, fishermen and dockworkers. The common people usually live in cities or walled towns, a stone's throw away from a nobleman's castle or Imperial fort. Colovians are Imperials, and Imperials are by nature townsfolk – despite the Colovian ideal of the rugged frontiersman. Commoners are mostly literate and somewhat educated (compared to other provinces). They are indifferent to provincial or Nibenese affairs, but keenly aware of events within Colovia – especially where it concerns the machinations of the Colo-Nords and the county lords.

Under foreigners should be understood both people of other races and Nibenese. While mostly integrated and unremarkable in the larger cities, foreign peoples are less common in the smaller, isolated Highland towns. Colovians accept and value people of other races only as long as they adhere to common preconceptions of heir behavior, qualities, and occupations. An Altmer scribe, Bosmer servant, or Redguard merchant will experience little problems, but an Orcish mage or Khajiit scholar will raise some eyebrows. Despite their emphasis on bloodlines and heritage, Colovians are in fact mostly a people of mixed descent: Nordic, Redguard, Nedic, and even Orcish blood are common. Border cities such as Sutch, Artemon, and Bruma feature large mixed populations.

The Colovians are pious, but very sober in their practice. The Nine Great Faiths are the most prominent cults in the west, and even minority convents are fairly rare. Adherence to the Nine Divines is socially enforced: failing to show proper respect for the Nine is reason for ostracism and violence. The Colovians also revere many mortal saints and heroes, who are honored in small shrines, and by noble circles and lodges dedicated to the cause and memory of certain saints. In general, such spirits are considered exemplars of virtue and proper conduct.

Unlike their eastern cousins, the Colovians have little interest in the worship of spirits and demons. The worship of Daedric or other spirits does occur, but usually in major city centers, where the influence of Nibenese culture is noticeable.

Of special note is the ancient traditions of Shor worsip, which is exclusive to the Colo-Nordic upper-class. This cult, which after centuries of separation shows very little resemblance to its Nordic counterpart, is closely tied to the ancient Colo-Nordic codes of conduct and governance. Its inner mysteries are held in secret, only passed down orally, and shrines to Shor can only be found in the cliff-fortresses of the ruling class. It is strictly illegal to worship Shor beyond the Colo-Nordic circle.

Besides the Nine, Shor and the lesser saints, the most important creeds are Emperor Zero, Remanism, the Red Templars, and the Talos Cult – all of them warrior spirits.

The Early Years
The inhospitable western regions of Cyrodiil were at first reluctantly ruled over by the Lipsacullean Ayleid, a minor culture-group within the larger Hegemony who were mainly concerned with the defense of the western border. The Lipsaculleans were less magically and martially adept than their autocratic Heartlands brothers, and even their attempts at enslaving local Nedic and Orcish tribes were half-hearted and inept: they tolerated several sizeable independent settlements along the west coast, in return for tribute in goods and slaves. Indeed, some of the more ambitious western lords initially sponsored the Alessian Rebellion in the hopes of weakening and overtaking the Ayleid center. After this backfired on them, most lords submitted to the new human Empire, or were quickly defeated by Nordic mercenary expeditions.

Faced with the recently freed Nedic populations, significant enclaves of Ayleid who had submitted to human rule, and the incumbent Nordic warlords whose culture was foreign to either party, Empress Alessia opted to grant the Nords land claims in the west as a reward for their assistance during the Rebellion, in the hopes of defusing the quickly mounting cultural and religious tensions in the Heartlands.

The Nordic pioneers made quick work of the last remaining Ayleid strongholds, and settled in several scattered colonies which would later develop into the first Colovian kingdoms: Chorral, Skingrad, Saerchal, and the Strident Kingdom. Two other semi-mythical kingdoms, Haermal and Vverchad, were founded on the far side of the Highlands (later lost to the Ra Gada). In the ensuing centuries, the later kingdoms of Mhorlagrad, Dethagrad, Kvetch, Artemon, Brumath and Delodiil would also be founded.

The Colovian Estates developed as isolated, backwater kingdoms of questionable allegiance. The Empire of the Cyrodiils and the Nordic Empire were politically entangled, and it was unclear, even to the Colovians, where their allegiance lied. Following their settlement, the Colovians turned away from the central valley of Cyrodiil and looked mainly to the west, their raider fleets harassing the vulnerable port towns of High Rock and Valenwood.

In 1E 361, the Marukhati Reforms become law across both the Alessian and Nordic Empires. The Colovian, by then united in an informal alliance known as the Colovian Estates or Free Estates, manage to resist the imposition of these lwas ,and even shelter many fleeing scholars and priests of the Eight Divines. However, their lands remain part of the Alessian Empire.

The Free Estates Period
The second Alessian period is known as a time of intense internal and external strife, as well as learning and technological advancements. The Estates were threatened from all sides, with the Alessians trying to formally annex them, Direnni and Bosmeri enmity, Sload slave raids, and, starting 1E 808, the aggressive Redguard conquests. The Colovians too made war with their neighbors, fighting with the Reachmen, the Deathlands Nedes and Orcs of the north, the Nords, and organizing annual raids on the cities of the Illiac Bay. The Estates also fought among themselves, with the lenghty wars between Kvatch and Skingrad being the most memorable.

This was also an age of great advancements: Nibenese priests of the Eight, escaping the Marukhati inquisitions, brought with them their religion as well as scholarly knowledge. The conquered Ayleids, too, supplied the Colovian upper class with mentors and teachers. Throughout the First Era, the Colovian kings became more sophisticated, instating courtly rituals and recording their lineages and myths. These teachings also led to more advanced war tactics and equipment.

Relationships with the Alessian center are variable, with periods of conflict (as under Emperor Gorieus) alternating with close cooperation (as under Empress Hestra). The period of and immediately following the Dragon Break was a low point, when the Colovians rejected the legitimacy of the Emperors, even mounting several (fruitless) crusades to conquer the Imperial City.

The zenith of the Colovian Estates was, ironically, immediately after the Thrassian Plague, a Sload-engineered disease which wiped out over half of Tamriel's population. The Sload were defeated by the All-Flags Navy, an alliance of several Tamrielic nations led by baron-admiral Bendu Olo of Anvil. The victory brought fame and favor to the Colovian Estates. Olo managed to further unite the Estates in the Oloman Confederacy, a short-lived movement of unity. For the first time, the Colovian Estates overshadowed the Nibenay.

The Era of Division
Emboldened by their military success, the Confederacy formally declared their independence from the Alessian Empire, refusing to pay further tribute and blocking the western trade routes. The Alessian Order was at that point reduced to a corrupt and weakened state, with barely any influence beyond the borders of Cyrodiil. The loss of revenue was the final straw, causing the Order to collapse from within.

What follows is the extraordinary bloody War of Righteousness, a horrific conflict lasting over ten years. Though initially carrying a veneer of civility, the war quickly degenerated into a ruthless massacre in which all parties attempted to conquer the Imperial throne. Both the Oloman Confederacy and the Alessian alliance were broken, and Cyrodiil fractured into hundreds of little city-states and kingdoms, all at war with each other. After the war, the Marukhati faith was outlawed, the First Empire dissolved, and the line of Emperors irredeemably broken. The Colovian kingdoms continued as independent, highly isolationist states, and most of the advancement of the previous era were forgotten.

The Reman Dynasty
The Colovian Estates remain in this dark age until the rise of Reman Cyrodiil. This exceptional Colovian warlord, born of Sancre Tor, single-handedly forged an army of Colovian and Nibenese forces to stop the dreaded Akaviri invasion. After his victory, he claimed the title of Emperor and demanded oaths of complete loyalty of the Colovian kings. Despite some misgivings, the Colovians surrendered, becoming completely subservient to the Empire for the first time. The Estates became Reman's military powerhouse, origin of his most loyal soldiers, governors and generals. Colovia was transformed with new highways, forts, and the wealth of tribute that Reman's conquests brought about. For the first time, Colovians took part in the politics of the Heartlands and Tamriel as equals.

This unity ended with the era of the Akaviri Potentates. The Colovians considered the foreign Potentates interlopers, and did not continue their oaths as they had under the heirs of Reman. The Estates gradually distanced themselves from the Nibenese-Akaviri culture, and some even theorize that the the death of the last Potentate was due to a Colovian plot.

The Interregnum was a dark age for the entirety of Cyrodiil. The Estates isolated themselves once more, blaming foreign elements and Nibenese weakness for the fall of the Second Empire. What followed was a period of corruption, decay and anti-intellectualism, and a return to the familiar quarrels between the Estates. The Colovians were convinced that an anointed warlord would rise from their midst to once again claim the throne of the Emperors, leading to many ill-conceived wars and failed conquests of the Imperial City.

The Septim Empire
The Estates were at last reunited by Cuhlecain, the Colovian king of Falkreath. A cunning and intelligent leader, Cuhlecain capitalized on the popular Emperor-myth to depict himself as a warlord in the vein of Reman, and emphasized the old Nordic origins of Colovia in order to justify a conquest/alliance with Skyrim. Cuhlecain was later replaced with Tiber Septim, who initially held the loyalty of the Colovians through the memory of Cuhlecain (by founding the Emperor Zero cult) and later by emphasizing his supposed Atmoran origin and Nordic nature.

Things turned sour for the Colovians late in the Tiber Wars. Having now taken control over the Numidium, Tiber Septim could destroy those whom he deemed insufficiently loyal. The Colovian kings had already shown too much of an independent streak, and many Colovians who supported Cuhlecain had their doubts about the veracity of Tiber's heritage, or the details surrounding Cuhlecain's death. Tiber decided to destroy these kingdoms, declaring their royal status void and replacing them with counties headed by his hand-picked loyalist generals. The Colovian Estates were thus finally unmade, though the lesser Colo-Nordic nobility survived, even sheltering some of the royal lineages. In the following decades, the new nobility intermarried and was gradually absorbed into the older Colo-Nordic families, who continue to dominate Colovia to this day.

In the modern Empire, Colovia and Nibenay are more closely entwined than ever. Colovian culture features prominently in the provinces, dominates the Legions, and has a substantive impact in the Elder Council. Though the divisions between Colovians and Nibenese, or even between the Colovians amongst themselves, remain strong, the longevity of the Septim Empire has given birth to the first pan-Imperial society. Still, the Colovians remain enamored to their old ways and the myths of the Free Estates, and their first impulse in times of crisis remains that of isolation.

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