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Thyatian Imperial Government

by James Ruhland

The Emperor

Thyatis is ruled by an Emperor (Avtokrator or Basilius). The throne is' technically elective (through the Senate), but in practice often hereditary (the Senate approves the most logical candidate, which is usually the previous Emperor's oldest child1. Co-Emperors are also sometimes elected, serving generally ceremonial roles, to free up the primary Emperor from court functions. On some occasions the ceremonial Emperor has been the dynastic one, while a more dynamic (generally military) co-Emperor has been elected to carry out affairs of state and policy.

The Emperor generally serves for life, though a few have been deposed (yet lived) through coups organised and supported by the Senatorial aristocracy and/or the military faction. Emperors often insure that their children are crowned co-Emperor while they live, as a way of maintaining a dynastic succession.

Thus, though in principle the throne is elective, not hereditary, Thyatis is generally ruled by dynastic houses of various lengths. Even the current Emperor, Thincol Torion, attached himself to the reigning dynasty through marriage to promote a sense of legitimacy, since the people have become accustomed to dynastic (hereditary) rulers and expect it.

The Emperor has the power to appoint the various ministers of the "executive" branch of government, and all report to him (directly or indirectly). He also makes senior provincial and judicial appointments, subject to confirmation by the Senate.

He is the supreme commander of the Thyatian military, and can organise and direct its forces on his discretion. He can veto any measure passed by the Senate, and through his ministers he can create 'regulations' which have the force of law (unless the Senate outlaws them specifically through legislation).

The Emperor in addition has certain ecclesiastical powers, including the ability to propose candidates for the office of "Patriarch" of Thyatis, to be confirmed by the senior Clerical officials of Thyatis. The Emperor is clearly paramount in Thyatian government.

Nota Bene: in situations where multiple "Emperors" (co-Emperors) exist, only the senior (or ruling, rather than reigning) Emperor is refereed to as "the Avtokrator", to distinguish him from the ceremonial Emperors.

Imperial Senate

Thyatis the City elects 28 Senators (2 from each ward of the City); every other city within the Empire elects 2 Senators, and each district2 elects 1 Senator. Typically, there are 200-300 Senators within the Empire at any given time. The officers of the Senate are selected by the Senate, generally consisting of distinguished men (and, on rare occasions, women). Presiding over the Senate is the Princeps Senatus.

The Senate is the legislative body of the Empire, passing all laws. They also determine the tax structure of the Empire, and supervise the activities of the Emperor and his ministers.

Only Senators may introduce bills for debate. Debate on any bill is limited to one week. Simple majorities are required to pass legislation, subject to Imperial Veto.

Though the Emperor may not introduce legislation himself, any Emperor who cannot rely on at least one Senator to do so on his behalf will not remain Emperor for long. The Senate cannot override an Imperial Veto (though they can pass legislation multiple times, interfere with Imperial appointments by delaying confirmations, etc, and otherwise put the screws to the Emperor in ways both formal and informal to get their way). Approval of the Senate is required for declarations of war, and the Senate bestows all titles3.

The Senate also has several judicial functions, and an important privilege bestowed upon those of high rank or title is the right of trial in the Senate, rather than the general courts. There are several ways of handling this, including trials where three Senators are appointed to judge a case, up to (for impeachment of high government officials) trial before the Senate as a whole.

The primary role of the Senate in practice however is as a supervisory "check" on the otherwise unlimited power of the Emperor. Any Emperor worthy of the name will be able to enforce his will. However, the Senate can obstruct things for intemperate Emperors, and has been a force behind efforts to replace disastrous ones, lending the deposition of a scoundrel legitimacy and conferring (through Senatorial election) legitimacy upon a replacement. None the less, such coups are often bloody, if brief, affairs.

Many Thyatian cites and communities have their own regional version of the Imperial Senate, an assembly (or Curia) that is responsible for local matters. The influence of these bodies on local policy is often fairly strong by comparison with the Imperial Senate, since the latter exists in the shadow of the Emperor's own power.

Senators are not paid out of the Imperial Treasury. Officially, they are unpaid, "serving the state out of civic duty." In practice, this means that Senators must be independently wealthy, or have some other source of income (IE a office in the Imperial Government). The Senators by and large like this, because it keeps out "rabble-rousing riff raff", those who cannot afford the office due to lack of wealth. Some enlightened cities and districts elect to provide financial support to their Senators (pay, if you will), to get around this. The 28 Senators of Thyatis the City receive stipends from the Guilds (and others), and housing if they need it. Thus, these Senators are somewhat less plutocratic than others.

Senators are elected for terms of "not more than six years;" The Emperor can call an election at his discretion, to take place six months after he decrees it, but no more than six years may pass between elections. Cities and Districts can also replace their Senators through recall and other means at their discretion (extraordinary procedures, usually invoked only in extreme circumstances), and by-elections if their Senator dies or resigns (for whatever reason) during his term.

The Imperial Senate maintains the character of the civic Senate of Thyatis the City as well. Thyatis the City has no "Curia" of its own, but its 28 Imperial Senators (which have informal city governance roles), the Guild Leaders, Ward Archons, etc., as well as the presence of the Imperial Government, insure that the political life of the City is dynamic.

The Curial assemblies of other cities are organised by local tradition. Some are no more than 12 or so prominent men, forming a town council, and others are large bodies equalling or rivalling the Imperial Senate in size (300 members). These Curial Assemblies are generally responsible for the organisation of local civic government, petitioning the Imperial Government to solve various problems that they don't have the resources to solve themselves, and the like. Their power, and the power of the officials they elect/appoint, vary with local circumstances and history. In many areas these are not "republican" bodies at all, but consist of local aristocrats and the like. Hattias for example is notoriously undemocratic.


So far the above is not terribly different from canon, but here is where they begin to show notable differences.

The Ministries are officed in the Praetorion building, the principal governmental building in Thyatis the City, or within the Great Palace itself. The executive "branch" of the Thyatian Imperial Government is often refereed to as "the Great Palace" (or "the Sacred Palace") in the same way people refer to "the White House" when talking about the American executive branch. People often refer to "the Praetorion" when speaking of the government of the City itself, as most of its functionaries have offices there. The actual civil service of the Thyatian government consists of little over 600 persons, rather small by modern standards. Each of its bureaux is headed by an official who reports directly to the Emperor.

The 12 Thyatian Ministries plus the office of the Sacellarius are organised as follows:

Sacellarius: Functions as a kind of "chief of staff", supervising the day to day activities of the other ministries. He has a staff of 12 inspectors, one for each of the below ministries.

Minister of Petitions: Another "gatekeeper" official, who sorts petitions to the Emperor, as well as lobbying for or against legislation in the Senate (a kind of "chief arm- twister"). He has a staff of 6 clerks.

Quaestor: Supervises the Imperial judiciary, as well as the Imperial policing/internal security forces. Often headed by a member of the Senate, this person is also responsible for the drafting of legislation to be submitted (by whatever means) to the Senate for debate. The Quaestor has a staff of 12.

Eparch: The Eparch regulates trade and commerce throughout the Empire, but is especially concerned with regulating it in Thyatis the City. He supervises one of the largest of the ministries, having a staff of 98 men, with offices in the Praetorion rather than the Great Palace. He is also responsible for governance and law enforcement in Thyatis the City itself, and is thus the closest thing to a mayor that it has (along with the leaders of the Demes, which see). His staff also includes the heads of the twenty or so commercial guilds of Thyatis the City.

Protoasecretis: Keeps records/archives of all the other departments, supervises the Imperial University, and is usually a man of great learning. Often given responsibility over magical matters as well, functioning as a kind of "Minister of the Arcane." "The Chancery" has a staff of 25 in addition to the Protoasecretis, many of them sages and other learned men, and more than a few Clerics and Mages of repute can be found in this ministry.

Imperial Factor: The Ministry of the Factor supervises the Imperial factories, arms production, and the like. These include production and distribution of goods for the vast Imperial Household within the Great Palace, production and sale of silk, and provisioning of the army and navy. The Imperial Factor has a staff of 15 men.

Great Curator: This officer functions as a kind of "super seneschal," administering the Imperial estates and palaces. He has a staff of 44 men (this does not of course include "household staff" such as chefs, etc, which are distinct from government as such and paid out of the emperor's own income, rather than the state budget).

Orphanotrophion: The Orphanotrophus is the official in charge of the Imperial orphanages and other charitable institutions. He is usually a renowned Cleric, and has a administrative staff of 8. The Orphanotrophion has also been given land grants sufficient to support its charitable works, supplementing direct government largess.

Chancellor of the Sacellium: This is, in effect, the "Ministry of the Treasury", supervising the Imperial Mint, and performing the tasks of a "national bank" (similar to the Federal Reserve). The Sacellarii, a small but potent guard force, ruthlessly hunts down and exterminates thieves with extreme prejudice, backed by magical might. The treasury has an official staff of 58 under the Chancellor himself.

Chancellor of the Vestarium: This bureau deals with objects other than cash, and supervises the Imperial Arsenal. "Objects other than cash" include magic items, alchemical factories, research endeavours, and the like. This ministry also has access to potent magic, and the very location of its most important projects is a tightly held secret. In addition to the Chancellor, 25 men are on the Imperial payroll in this bureau.

General Logothete: This official supervises the collection of taxes, and has a staff of inspectors to insure that receipts are not embezzled or otherwise lost due to corruption. Magical means are used to insure that the tax collectors (generally tax farmers who receive a fixed percentage of the receipts). Obviously, it is important that this office is staffed by a man of unquestioned character. Records are constantly updated, and this bureau is also in charge of census matters, and maintaining an accurate survey of the status of the Empire as a whole. A staff of 71 is supported out of the Imperial Treasury for this ministry.

Military Logothete: in effect the "Minister of War", this officer has the important task of supervising the distribution of pay to the Thyatian military, as well as its logistical provisioning. Officials of this ministry are also tasked with inspection of the Imperial Armed forces, insuring their quality. It works in tandem with the Imperial High Command to develop sound military organisation, research and development of new ships, engines of war, supports the study of battle spells, and supervises military academies and training centres. 98 men, including the Logothete, staff this bureau.

Logothete of Information: This ministry performs a variety of functions; it is in charge of the Imperial communications network (including couriers, the Heliograph, and a rumoured magical communication network), it supervises Thyatian consular embassies in other lands, and is in charge of "internal security." This Minister is also responsible for the Imperial "secret service", the Magistranoi, who perform espionage and counterespionage tasks for the Imperial government. The Magistranoi are a small but elite group, including many Foresters, Rakes, and Thieves (but not exclusively) who, in effect, "adventure" on behalf of the Imperium. The bureaucratic staff of this ministry is 130 persons, making it the largest of the 13 Ministries. For an inexplicable reason, this Ministry is often refereed to as "the Drome4".

Note that the above Ministries may not cover all functions. Individuals given titles by the Senate (usually at the request of the Emperor) are often deputised to form "ad hoc" groups to handle certain matters of import to the state (read = adventurers and their buddies). Also, in the Imperial Armed Forces, the commanders of the Imperial Guard regiments (the Tagmata) form a kind of "High Command"/General Staff dealing with military matters.

In general, the ministries perform largely supervisory functions: the military, provincial administrators, and "private" institutions do much of the actual administrative work. The staffs of the central bureaux consist mostly of people who keep track of what should be done for the government, agents and messengers who send out directives, and inspectors to insure that the orders have been carried out properly. This creates a system that provides all necessary government at low cost to the state5

In addition, many of the above Ministries may have functions not specified in their descriptions. In fact, the descriptions are left almost deliberately vague in many instances, leaving room for detail to be filled in.

There are also "subministerial" organisations, quasi- governmental or "intermediary institutions" that are "off budget". These include institutions such as the Imperial University, monasteries and other important organisations which have been given land grants or other means of "off budget" support by the Imperium. They are run autonomously, but in cooperation with the government (if that makes sense). The Thyatian Imperium is kind of a "corporatist state6" in this respect. Sometimes, it is hard to tell where the government ends, and where private institutions begin.

1c.f. "One Clear Choice" from the Rebellion Sourcebook, GDW, for Traveller, on why this practice prevails.

2District populations average 20,000 people.

3These titles are largely ceremonial, but prestigious, and they do carry with them certain privileges. However, there is no "nobility" as such, in the sense of hereditary feudal rulers.

4Actually, it is explicable: this is the Logothete du Dromond, or "Ministry of the Runners". Most folks know of "Dromonds" as warships, not couriers, so I changed it. However, "the Drome" is a nice colloquialism; just assume its origin is lost in the mists of time. . .

5For more detail, see Treadgold, State Finances and The Byzantine Revival. See also Magdalino, The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos. There are a number of other sources if you're truly hard core. Of course, The Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. 4 is a good general source, and John Julius Norwich's Byzantium trilogy (which I'd recommend over the one volume condensation) is written with the general reader in mind.

6In the Political Science sense of the term. Modern corporatism has nasty connotations, but most pre-modern European nations were to some large degree corporatist, without being fascist or Stalinistic. However, in some campaigns the Thyatian Empire is depicted as a fascist dictatorship, so this appellation would be appropriate. In general, I have tried to keep everything as "neutral" as possible, portraying the above neither positively nor negatively, though I'm sure you creative folks can see where some nice nasty interpretations can be made.

Anyhow, that's it for the central government. Provincial organisation to follow, unless folks would prefer something else first.