The Path of Honour

13 Jul

Background for a world, probably for the Kat Falcone series.

The Path of Honour

Like many other planets founded in the 3rd Expansion Period, Nova Roma was founded on an artificial social construction rather than a natural expansion of a pre-existing culture. Specifically, the Founders wanted to establish a society that would provide protection for the weak, train and shape the strong for government and at the same time weed out undesirable elements from the strong caste. In the years since its foundation, Nova Roma has remained remarkably stable after its culture mutated in several ways as the idealised system confronted reality.

Viewed dispassionately, there are three separate adult castes on Nova Roma; Senators, Centurions and Citizens. (Less charitable observers call them Wolves, Sheepdogs and Sheep.) Citizens possess rights, as laid down in the Founding Laws, but no direct political power. Centurions possess great power in specific areas – the army, for example – yet they don’t have any overall power. Senators have considerable power, provided that they don’t seek to violate the Founding Laws. This system works primarily because anyone can make the jump from Citizen (or Centurion) status to Senator.

Once passing the age of maturity (16 standard years) a person is enrolled as a Citizen, unless they wish to make an immediate bid for Senatorial status. If choosing that path, they are given a commanding position in a relatively minor role; these can range from managing an office, controlling a theatre company or even a very junior role in the military. In effect, they are expected to learn on the job, a task requiring considerable mental skill and – more importantly – a willingness to listen to subordinates (specifically the Centurions, of which more below.) If successful in their first command, they will be offered the chance to move on to another, and then another. This grants the future leaders of society – assuming they make it through the Path of Honour – a wide range of backgrounds and usable managing skills.

Upon completing five different positions, the candidate is automatically enrolled in the Senate as a Senator and becomes eligible for the most important posts on Nova Roma; senior military commands, planetary government, judges and the Consulships. Once a Senator, the Senator has a vote in the planet’s affairs as well as in choosing the next senior officers, allowing them to compete for the positions. Their past often comes back to haunt them as their rivals will often examine their previous posts for signs of failure, weakness or otherwise failings that render someone unqualified for a senior post.

Although each Senator is, in theory, equal to any other, it is a basic fact that those who have completed more successful commands after becoming Senators are superior to those who have only recently been enrolled in the Senate. This isn’t always a strength; someone who failed, even if through no fault of his own, in a particular command may find himself outvoted by his former allies. A senior who is unpleasant to a junior will generally discover that his inferiors can still hamper his ability to win more posts.

At the top of the system are the Consuls, who are elected for five-year terms and then expected to stand down gracefully (seeking a lower post would make them laughing stocks). They share considerable powers, including overall military command, making them effective heads of state. However, the Senate must confirm any of their decisions or they will be technically rendered null and void. Few Consuls need to press emergency measures into existence without the Senate’s consent, as they would therefore be open to legal challenge.

Centurions occupy a place between Senators and Citizens. Unlike Senators, a Centurion is a long-serving person in a particular organisation who can be trusted to help and direct the energies of the young candidates – and protect their subordinates from cruel, stupid or unworthy Senators. In the military, they are NCOs; largely responsible for keeping the military force operating while their seniors attempt to make their mark as prospective Senators. Centurions have a reputation for being solid, but unimaginative, partly because any Centurion with an idea that would make his mark would start attempting to walk the Path of Honour himself rather than allow his superior to take the credit.

Oddly enough, Centurions serve to supervise and control Senators (and prospective Senators) in two different ways. In one, they are the advisors to young, insecure and often ignorant officers, steering their talents in the direction that best suits their organisation. In the other, they are the policemen, with powers for removing prospective senators from their position and – in the worst circumstances – the power to execute the prospective senator without referring the matter to their superiors. This is rare – most prospective senators would have the sense to back down if rejected by their Centurions – but it has happened on several occasions. In all cases, the Arbitrators conducted a full survey of the situation and determined that the Centurions had acted properly.

The Arbitrators are the ultimate expression of the Centurion ethos. Elected from long-term Centurions, the thirteen Arbitrators stand in judgement over the full Senators. They are judges, jury and peacekeepers, preventing Senators from either taking their disputes to the physical level or involving civilians in their dispute. Any complaint made against a Senator has to be investigated by the Arbitrators, although they have considerable powers to punish those who either make false complaints or the complaints are found to be in error. If found guilty, a Senator will be stripped of his position and generally pushed into exile or imprisoned. Executing a Senator is legally permitted, but very rarely seen in practice; only one example appears in Nova Roma’s history.

There is no such thing as a permanent political consensus on Nova Roma. The permanent competition for positions – and therefore political power – ensures that all coalitions break apart as positions open and close. Competition among Senators can be savage, although the Arbitrators enforce a genteel peace to prevent bloodshed and the resulting political feuds that would destabilise the system. If pushed into a position where they are hopelessly compromised, a Senator may willingly seek exile from Nova Roma (which can sometimes be nowhere further than twenty miles from Roma, the capital city, itself) or be pushed out of position by his fellows. These – called the Fallen – are physically safe, but forbidden to ever return to politics. This taint does not, however, cover their families, who may continue to seek power if they wish to do so.

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One Response to “The Path of Honour”

  1. The Deposed King July 14, 2012 at 4:27 am #

    The Arbiters are a nice twist. I would also think the Centurionate would be inherently conservative and status quo. If most of the intellectual cream rises and goes on to become Senators. not to say they couldn’t embrace innovation, just that they are darwinianed out of msot of their own creative juices.

    The Deposed King

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