World Without West

11. Red Shore (27 BS – ca. 100 AS)
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The emperors of Chu were not satisfied. Each tribe annexed in the south left others available for conquest. With aquaculture having replaced agriculture as the main source of food, the bulk of the population was concentrated on the southern highlands, and the lands of Southeast Asia were torn between Hindi and Chinese influence. The Vedic religion had already largely replaced the aboriginal cults, and Daoism was appearing in the coastal communities. Merchants and envoys vied for the attention of local lords.

At that time, the Chu campaign around 27 BS [160 BC] had annexed the region of Lungbin [Hanoi] [1], then the last surviving Nanyue kingdom. The Chinese writing system and Mohist administration were quickly introduced, and immigration of ethnic Chinese to this new province was encouraged. Aquaculture was extensively practiced on the Red River, and the local harbors were used for maritime trade with the Spice Islands and India.

The Nanda Empire, growing out of the powerful Magadha kingdom near the mouth of the Ganges, had unified most of the Indian subcontinent by half of the 3rd century BS, and established extensive relations with Persia. [2] Its culture kept spreading eastward, especially in the coastal cities of Annam and in the Khmer kingdom of Funan, where the great port of O Keo [3] had been built on the Mekong delta. Two hundred years after its foundation, though, corruption was eroding the structure of the empire. In order to feed their lifestyle, the ministers pushed for increasingly aggressive trade and vassalization of the eastern lands.

The kingdom of Cham was the first to suffer the consequences. The region of Cham had been staunchly Hindu for centuries, and its iron mines made it an important trade partner for the Indian cultural sphere, including Sumatra, Jawa and Funan. The largest coastal city, Indrapura, was an important center of the cult of Shiva, worshipped in the form of phallic lingam. However, it now saw a large influx of Yue emigrates and Chinese merchants, following the routes between O Keo and Samtsan [Shenzhen]. It was now set on the fault line between two expanding cultures.

The ruling Nanda emperor, Chakravartin Dharmavarman, was reportedly deeply jealous of his prestige in the east, and sent envoys to pressure the Cham king Purishvara into tightening the access from the north. Each year, only so many Chinese ships would be admitted in the harbor, and foreigners were forbidden from venturing inland. Dharmavarman even tried to ban altogether the sale of iron to Chu, although Purishvara refused.

In 11 BS [144 BC], a Chinese spice merchant was arrested in a market of Indrapura for allegedly killing a man over a dishonest sale. The Chu emissary demanded the merchant to be delivered to him to be punished according to Chinese law, which the authorities of Indrapura refused. There was a quarrel as they tried to recover the prisoner, which escalated into a full riot. The merchant, however, was executed by the local authorities. Perhaps emboldened by the recent conquest of Qi in the far north, the Emperor Jiao accused them of murdering one of his subjects, and demanded vast reparations to be paid.

Short before the end of the year, a vast Chu war fleet had been deployed in front of the Cham shore. Many commercial vessels were attacked and their cargo confiscated, far exceeding the value of the reparations. Chinese crossbows were formidably powerful, and capable of attacking the shore from a safe distance. Plunder went on with little opposition until the Nanda ships rounded Melaka [Malacca] and came to aid their vassal.

The loss of life among civilians was rather modest, except for the many raided commercial ships, as the land was mostly spared; but the toll on armies was vast. The battle that occurred off Panduranga was by far the largest naval battle ever seen until then, involving over 400 ships between both sides. The 11th century Tamil poem Civappu Katarkarai (“red shore”) vividly describes the aftermath from the vantage point of a fisherman who finds the sea choked by floating corpses.

The Melakan War is often considered the earliest modern hegemonic war, in which both participants fought to control a region of the world without wanting to annex it (the Nanda Empire wasn't willing to build the necessary infrastructure, and Chu couldn't control the jungles and mountains so far from its center of power). China did eventually retain some territory on the northern coast of Annam and Cham, but not any inland, and in fact it didn't even have much control on the land between the cities, instead sticking to sea travel for commerce, tribute-taking and enforcement. Nevertheless, it gained all but complete control on sea routes in what became known as the Yue Sea [South China Sea].

The war was interrupted by troubles in the far north. In Goryeo, Gojoseon had fractured into warring kingdoms much like the Zhou before them: the largest ones were Goguryeo, highly centralized and militarized, in the north and the elective confederation of Mahan in the southwest. [4] Now the situation was turning in favor of Mahan since the fall of Qi had deprived Goguryeo of a staunch ally, leaving it vulnerable to encroaching from Yan. In 5 AS [129 AS], with Yan support, Mahan seized Pyeongyang and pushed north, deep in Goguryeo territory. As frequent Mahan raids threatened Qi coasts, the Chu Empire had to withdraw ships from the Yue Sea and redeploy them in the north.

In 7 AS [127 BC] the Melakan War ended. China managed to secure a better access to the harbors and coastal town in Annam and northern Cham, and greater privileges in local commerce; however, Chinese settlement in the surrounding areas would be severely limited. Purishvara kept most of his kingdom, but he would have to swear loyalty to the emperor Jiao rather than to the chakravartin. The Nanda Empire had lost some of its control over Vedic Asia, though it retained many vassals in the area, chiefly Funan.

The war had left both parties weakened. By the end of the 1st century AS, China had lost all territory north of the Yellow River to Yan; but the Nanda empire would be the most unfortunate, as it found itself impoverished and undermanned – and with the already precarious trust in its leadership further damaged – just when a new enemy was coming for it from the opposite side of the world.


[1] Lóngbiān in Mandarin, Rồngbiên in Vietnamese, literally “dragon edge”; OTL, its name was changed to Hanoi (“river within”) in 1831.
[2] With no Macedonian Empire, the life of Chandragupta Maurya unfolds differently and he never gets to overthrow the Nanda dynasty, which lasts for over 200 years rather than 20.
[3] Today Óc Eo, in southern Vietnam.
[4] Approximately as OTL (Proto-Three Kingdoms of Korea).

In the next installment: a man from West Africa changes the world.
 
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How likely is it for the Mohists to devise a political system akin to republicanism? Or at least a more distributed form of rule than was the norm in China IOTL, maybe an oligarchical system with technocratic aspects to it?
 
I can't tell for sure, but I think it's at least possible. IOTL, China could develop as a decentralized technocracy with the emperor relegated to a purely symbolic role, which I guess could be called a republic in the sense that the important positions are not hereditary. I don't know how conducive that would be to a democracy - maybe the best starting point for that would be the Indian republics we discussed in the last page.
 
How are you planning to have technology develop?

Will we see similar technological trends as IRL or will it be faster or slower?

I always find long timeline's technology oddly linear and uniform. I'm a big fan of the idea of technology developing in bizarre, different ways.

One story I have been writing takes place in the 1950s with technology having been relatively stagnant since the 1890s with OTL Periodic Table of Elements never emerging and electricity never being discovered. Generic manipulation through animal husbandry and chemica weapons are far more advanced and practiced. Animal crossbreeds have been around for decades and used in major military conflicts for intimidation and chemical weapons remained in common use.

Differences like that would be really interesting for TTL.
 
I was planning to have technology develop at a roughly similar rate as OTL (say, an Industrial Revolution 3-4 centuries after the development of transoceanic routes), but I'd like to have it develop in different directions, and I'd be happy to hear any suggestions on the matter. It's still a bit early to worry about industrial technology, but a different development of gunpowder, or early chemistry and medicine, or simple mechanics... I recall Green Antarctica having very interesting descriptions of the Tsalal using gunpowder in rockets rather than firearms. Maybe Mohist engineers or Daoist alchemists develop something like hwachas or Greek Fire. Or, heck, maybe an Indian guild of apothecaries discovers how to produce toxic gas, and for the next centuries the main weapon of war will be poison rather than fire.
 
One point of note - Han China borrowed much of their traditions and culture from the Chu, and as such, a Chu-unified China wouldn't look too different from the Han - with the notable exception of the Qin being removed from the equation. Furthermore, a Southern China with a Indo-China based focus might end up turning into Greater Vietnam.

Furthermore, if China is divided post-Warring States, it'll take much longer for it to coalesce into the China we know it as today. After the Qin united China, they standardized it - if through brutal and destructive methods. A China that consists of more than one nation won't be standardized, and it's very possible that the North and South will develop drastically different cultures. Just look at how Northern China differs from Southern China, and then imagine that difference significantly increased by a far more deep-rooted separation.

Given how the Yellow River now marks the line between Northern and Southern China, how will this affect say - Luoyang, or Xi'an?
 
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Xi'an was located close to Xianyang, capital of Qin; with Xianyang destroyed and power concentrated elsewhere, I'd imagine it will remain a small frontier town at least for the next centuries. From what I see, it derived much of its importance from its central position in OTL China, which definitely isn't central ITTL. It could gain preminence in the future as part of the Silk Road, but relations with the north are going to remain hostile for a long time, and I wouldn't exclude Xi'an from being damaged by north-south wars. Less sure about Luoyang - being the last capital of the Zhou would give it some importance, I guess.
 
12. The Prophet of the Azawagh (1 – 68 AS)

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The 1st century BS was a dark time for the peoples of the Kwara river. The influx of cheap horses and iron weapons through Carthaginian trade had given them the means to wage destructive wars on each other, and the demand for goods had given them a reason. Gold mines were bitterly disputed among kingdoms, the elephants of the Azawagh were all but extinct, and every year thousands of war prisoners were sold as slaves and marched through the desert, most of them to die under the blistering sun.

It's hard to tell the story of such a figure as the Sarmuhene in an objective manner. Over the centuries, both sacred and profane writing has woven so many stories and interpretations that it's probably impossible to fully untangle facts from myths. The man who would bear this title was born, of course, in 1 AS [133 BC] under the tent of a relatively wealthy horse breeder of the Akan nation, near the village of Akoma. That trader was named Kwadwo Kyerewa, and he had been murdered in one of many skirmishes just before his birth: so the child was named Anto, as Akan tradition prescribes for children who never meet their fathers. [1]

Young Anto was raised to tend horses by his mother, Amma, but he reportedly was more interested in warfare, hoping someday to restore order to the Azawagh region. He led a rather unremarkable life, marrying a woman named Akuba, until he was 35; then, according to Nyamist tradition, he experienced a vision of Nyame, the supreme deity of the Akan pantheon, entrusting him with the goal of uniting all the warring tribes of the Azawagh and granting him the skills and charisma to do so.

Anto's belief strongly identified leadership among gods with leadership among humans; if not monotheistic, his belief system was (and is) certainly monolatric. As Nyame and his wife Asase Yaa ruled over a pantheon of lesser gods, which in turn ruled over the spirits of the universe (abosom), so a king with his queen should control regional princes who ruled over the population of all the Azawagh. This message of unity was extremely appealing to the war-torn peoples of the upper Kwara.

Gathering six companions, including Akuba, he launched a rebellion against the old chief Nkroma, a capricious man who commonly had people killed for failing to sate his greed (Nkroma's evil was probably exaggerated by retelling). Nearby villages joined him quickly. The companions compiled a code of law that was meant to be clear, fair, and apply equally to all the people of the Azawagh – which of course implied it had to be imposed by force. Akoma was destined to become the capital of a mighty empire.

At that time, Djenné-Djenno was the most powerful city on the Kwara river, surprisingly cosmopolitan with its Akan, Hausa, Fula and Imazigh population. All the caravans from the north passed from there. Despite the true army he could raise from the people of Akoma and the other villages, Anto didn’t launch an open attack on Djenné-Djenno. He entered the city alone, under a false name, to call all peoples to unite under the authority of Nyame and cast off the corruption of commerce. In this city of traders, many of the poorest workers had been displaced from their natal lands by tribal warfare.

Markets were almost all controlled by the devouts of Baal Hammon, and they eventually became the target of violence by Nyamist neophytes. Ethnic rivalries, usually restrained within the city, were rekindled; the guards of the city were mostly Imazigh, and they were blamed for the division. Never advocating violence himself, Anto publicly announced that a king blessed by Nyame would come from a poor village in the savanna to restore order, if they would allow it.

A year after having entered the city, Anto reappeared outside the walls with a small group of followers. As he was acclaimed by the growing Nyamist community, the Imazigh governor invited him inside and abdicated in his favor. Once he controlled Djenné-Djenno, Anto gave all the herds and the positions in governance to those who had accepted the supremacy of Nyame and his representative on Earth during his pseudonymous preaching.

Having won through cunning more than strength, the Sarmuhene was eventually identified with Anansi, the trickster-figure bringer of wisdom with the features of a spider. For this reason, the common symbol of Nyamism is today a stylized spider.

The law he imposed on all his territory was meant to be precise, fair, and the same for all peoples. Today it's considered overly strict, and its punishments harsh, but after the anarchy that had bloodied the Azawagh for centuries it must have come as a relief.

With the largest city of the Kwara under his control and more and more villages turning to Nyamist beliefs, for protection if nothing else, Anto Kyerewa had become the most powerful man in western Libya. By now military conquest had become possible, and acceptable enough, since the chiefs that didn't accept his rule were obviously motivated only by greed and thus deserved no mercy.

Despite the moral degeneracy that were attributed to them, horses and iron proved increasingly useful, especially when wielded by a compact force against divided enemies. The prophet of Nyame eventually carved a veritable empire in the savanna of the Azawagh. Acknowledging that his army was dependent on grassland, and that both the desert and the jungle were outside of his grasp, Anto declared that “every place where grass grows” belonged to him on Nyame's behalf; and in 47 AS [87 BC] he took the title of Sarmuhene – literally, “king of the grassland”.

In Nyamism, as in the original Akan religion, Nyame is known as Odomankoma, “the infinite inventor”, creator of the universe. He's identified with the sky, while his consort Asase Yaa is identified with earth. Together they rule over a multitude of spirits that fill the world, and can inhabit humans and objects. This duality, as opposed to the strict Zoroastrian monotheism [2], has recently been credited as inspiration for the modern ideas of gender equality (see the writings of Afua Djansi, especially Standing on Both Feet).

In reality, the equivalence between Nyame and Asase Yaa is a very recent idea, hardly over two centuries old; originally, she was never meant to be her husband's equal, just like Akuba was never meant to be the equal of the Sarmuhene. To be fair, this arrangement did discourage the practice of polygamy once common in Western Libya, so in this sense it can be considered partially responsible for the developments of modern gender theory.

Because of the circumstances of its origin, Nyamism is rather hostile to long-distance trade, though it has relaxed over the last centuries; commerce tends to be restricted to local markets, or else entrusted to foreigners, often Celts and Indians, which formed sizable communities in all the major cities of western Libya. Writing was also regarded poorly; to write down the teaching of the Sarmuhene was considered base and borderline blasphemous. The lack of a developed literature would be compensated by elaborate figurative art and by an astonishingly complex musical tradition. In the outer regions of the Akan cultural sphere, the Adinkra pictograms [3] developed into a simple ideographic script, used especially by Celtic seafarers.


[1] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akan_names
[2] There will be centuries of debate over whether Zoroastrianism or Nyamism is the purest monotheism, and the two religions will be constantly accusing each other of being bitheists (worshiping Asase Yaa with Nyame, or Ahriman with Ahura Mazda).
[3] OTL, the Adinkra are simple symbols that were developed in Ashanti (Akan) tradition around 1800 AD. It might not be very likely for something very similar to appear ITTL, but I figured some kind of pictograms would be useful in a complex polity that lacks its own writing system.

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In the next installment: the newborn empire grows, and challenges the great powers of its time.
 
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I'd like to see the butterflies in Japan and insular southeast Asia.

A Yamato-Ainu cultural mash-up would be interesting. So is an archipelagic superstate.
 
Northern Europe

A major point in this time is the expansion of Celts, so I can see shore-hugging ships exploring the northern coasts of Europe and maybe establish settlements like those the Greeks left in the Mediterranean. From what I see, in this time Scandinavia had great demand for Mediterranean bronze, so that's an opportunity for exchange, at least if bog iron working doesn't appear. (You know what would be cool? Scandinavian peoples develop their society around a warrior aristocracy with traditional bronze weapons, and then they're swamped by Suomic or Baltic massed infantry supplied with iron by some other neighbour. And that's how you get a Finnish Britain, or something. That could be an idea for the Migration Age.)
I'll try to cover that in more depth in future updates.

I'd like to see the butterflies in Japan and insular southeast Asia.

A Yamato-Ainu cultural mash-up would be interesting. So is an archipelagic superstate.

Hmm... Japan seems to have developed relatively late (did they even have writing before importing Kanji from China?), so butterflies are going to hit it hard. I can see it unified under an Aztec-style* state, with centralized government and monumental buildings but also minimal metalworking and pictographic proto-writing. Or maybe the Ainu component triumphs over the Yamato, and the islands are filled with beards, bark robes and bear worship. (Or both, I guess.) How much of that would we even recognize as Japan?
As for Southeast Asia, I suppose split India and southernized China are going to fight much harder to control it ITTL. Maybe add a thalassocratic Ainu!Japan to the mix...

* I've been thinking, with triumphant Celts, surviving Carthage and Abrahamic religions pushed into irrelevance or nonexistance, TTL is going to see a lot more human sacrifice than OTL, especially if *Aztecs and *Incas have better luck. Then again, Rome and China seem to show that civilization tend to abandon that sort of thing as they mature, so.
 
As for Southeast Asia, I suppose split India and southernized China are going to fight much harder to control it ITTL.

I guess ITTL you'd see more Chinese culture in Southeast Asia, which makes sense. But India did not really control Southeast Asia at this point. The southern thalassocratic kingdoms really just set up trading posts throughout the region, and these trading posts influenced the culture around them. Actual territorial control of Southeast Asia didn't come until much later.

So, I think you'd see a more culturally Chinese Southeast Asia and maybe fighting over trade routes, but no wars for control.

Abrahamic religions pushed into irrelevance or nonexistance,

Judaism was polytheistic and not too different from Canaanite religion at the time, so you could still have an Abrahamic religion (Judaism), but one that's not too different from the Punic and Phoenician religion.
 
13. The Pagan Towers (68 – 167 AS)

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The periphery of Akoma, built under Nsoroma's rule.

The Nyamist literary tradition is famous for its indirectness, consequence of their refusal to put into writing the word of Nyame. People, nations and cities are referred to with titles and epithets; actions and events are described through metaphors and metonymies. The ancient city of Qart-Hadasht, the most powerful rival to Nyamist hegemony over northern Libya, was known as the “pagan towers”.

In the Sarmuhene's worldview, the rule of merchants in the Carthaginian Empire was the source of the moral corruption that had devastated his fathers' land. His law had now been safely established in what is known as Akanstan. [1] An elderly King of the Grassland, sitting in a humble tent in Akoma, left his children the mission to break the power of Qart-Hadasht and spread the word of Nyame to the people of the far north, beyond the great desert.

When the Sarmuhene died in 68 AS [66 BC], the Phoenician city still controlled the northwestern coast of Libya, south Enotria with the neighboring islands, and the southern coast of Keltistan. The Kemetic Empire had waxed to its largest size by submitting as a vassal the rich Aksumite kingdom, but was now plagued by rebellions much like those that freed it from Persian power in the first place. Power over the Akan empire went to Kwame, Anto's eldest son, while direct command over the army went to his brother Kodjo.

In 72 AS [62 BC], an army led by Kodjo marched north. It included the famed fimara [2], Imazigh horsemen converted to the Nyamist cause that were considered invincible in the desert. With them, Kodjo submitted most centers of the Ivory Road in the western Tiniri [3]. His campaign lasted the better part of a decade, and put Nyamist governors in their charge, as far east as Bilma.

Kwame, meanwhile, sent emissaries/missionaries to Men-Nefer and Aksum, intending to get their help in a coming war against Qart-Hadasht. However, the Pharaoh Ankhnefer IV and the Negus Tirhaka each felt insulted by Kwame contacting the other. Of the two, the Kemetic empire was the strongest potential ally, but it was tainted, so to speak, by its long association with the Carthaginian markets. So, Kwame decided to mount an attack against Kemet as a sign of benevolence toward Aksum.

Kodjo was recalled, to his great disappointment, from the desert campaign, and sent out east. The Akan army rode past Lake Chad, submitting on its way the ancient Sao culture that resided there. Nyamism was already spreading on its own; whenever Kodjo defeated an enemy, he just had to pick a convert to whom to give power. With Aksumite support, he began launching raids into Kemetic land. He was badly injured and captured in a skirmish, but freed, according to the story, by a converted Kemetic captain.

The war between Akan and Kemet was short; in the battle of Medewi of 79 AS [55 BC], Kodjo inflicted a painful defeat to the Kemetic army. That would be enough to prevent it from exercising its influence on Aksum for many decades. Kodjo entered Medewi in triumph, although the city would be retaken by Kemet a decade later. This convinced Tirhaka to offer support in men and money to the Akan – and to convert to Nyamism a few years later. At this point Kwame began worrying about Kodjo's power and prestige, and recalled him to Akoma.

The two brothers were growing increasingly distrustful of each other. In 81 AS [53 BC], Kwame attempted to remove Kodjo from his position. The general then invoked the help of a legion of his faithful fimara, who raised their arms against Kwame's city guard and easily forced them to surrender. Most of the army was loyal to Kodjo, but many would still rather obey Kwame as the rightful heir of the Sarmuhene. The young empire seemed on the brink of civil war.

It was old Akuba who defused the hostility, calling for the reconciliation of the two brothers. She sat alone at the doors of the palace for three days, and Kodjo didn't dare to send a single soldier to force her away. She would only allow him to enter, alone and unarmed, and meet Kwame, equally alone and unarmed.

When Akuba died in 84 AS [50 BC], Kodjo declared a three-year ban on warfare, which in fact seems to have lasted much longer. The following two generations of Sarmuhene [4], Dwenini (91-97 AS) and Nsoroma (97-112 AS), are remembered more for mystical episodes and consolidation of the laws than for conquest. Dwenini had largely turned to meditation and religious scholarship during his father's interminable kingdom; Nsoroma oversaw great works of expansion of Akoma. Relationships were established with the tribes along the river Senegal, especially the Serer.

Hostilities would resume in 115 AS [19 BC] under Agyenim, who claimed to have seen in a dream his great-great-grandfather urging him to deliver the final blow against the Pagan Towers. His army was diverse and well-stocked, counting Imazigh riders, Hausa infantry, Aksumite archers, Celtic mercenaries, and, of course, Akan officials. Qart-Hadasht had grown huge, and ancient, and defended by multiple belts of walls and towers, but without its traffics it would be nothing more than a village of fishermen. (Agyenim probably didn't know much about the Mediterranean routes.)

So, in that year the army marched on the desert towns south of the Phoenician capital. Celtic mercenaries were fighting on both sides, and they often agreed to prolong battles beyond necessity to draw a higher pay. Carthaginians attempted to release elephants on the battlefield, but they proved more dangerous to the deployer than to the enemy. In the last years, the scarcity of wood made arrows too expensive, so Aksumite bowmen were sent back to the Kwara provinces to serve as guards, a position they would traditionally keep for centuries.

Although very limited in geographic scope, the war lasted sixteen years. The rare wells were bitterly disputed, every town changed hands more than once – some up to ten or eleven times – and routes trough the Tiniri were ruined for a long time to come. The Akan armies would never breach the walls of Qart-Hadasht, but its power over Libya was definitely broken. Carthaginian ships would still cross the sea to Celtic and Etruscan harbors, but all the Libyan land belonged to the chosen of Nyame. The worship of Baal Hammon and child sacrifice were banned on pain of death.

Remembering the crisis that had followed Anto's death, Agyenim divided the responsibilities of his immense empire between his children. As he had four, the Akan Empire was divided into four districts. The Akan core controlled by the Sarmuhene at his death would be directly governed by the firstborn from Akoma, and three entrusted to his younger brothers, and to governors in following centuries. The second born had Murakusi, the western coast with its harbors; the third took Kabile, the mostly empty land south of Qart-Hadasht which nevertheless was crossed by crucial land routes; the fourth received Sawo, the lands of the former Sao around Lake Chad, the most isolated of the four.

The speed of the expansion of the Akan Empire is nothing short of astonishing, and can only be compared to the Turkic conquests or the Asian colonization of Akashima, neither of which resulted in a single unified polity. Setting aside supernatural factors, this can be explained in part by the weakness of the states in western Libya, though the unifying factor of Nyamism must have played a role in pacifying the submitted populations. The fact that conquerors often found at least partially converted peoples could have helped avoid the worst excesses of conquest warfare, and allowed to place local leaders in positions of power.

As the Carthaginian War ended, veterans went to live in cities throughout the empire, contributing to the mixing of cultures. After the dismantlement of the Persian Empire, the eastern Mediterranean and Middle Asia had been overtaken by an unprecedented diversity of faiths and philosophies. The Zoroastrian doctrine had shattered in several currents, which had been influenced by the other religions – Turkic, Kemetic, Jewish, Helleno-Scythian; the teachings of Dao-Mohism found their way into Kemet, and a Vedic monastery was known to exist on the mountains of Armenia.

There were already thinkers pushing for an universalist melding of religions: the heretical Nyamist philosopher Mensa of Medewi explicitly identified Nyame with the Turkic Tengri, the Kemetic Aten, the Phoenician Baal Hammon, the Jewish Yahweh, the Scythian Papaeos and the Persian Ahura Mazda. Parthia represents an exception: blaming the ruin of the empire as a punishment for straying from the proper worship of Ahura Mazda, it saw a gradual purge of pagan gods such as Indra and Mitra, and retreated for a long time into religious integralism.


[1] This would correspond roughly to OTL Burkina Faso, southern Mali and Niger, and northern Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast.
[2] Berber for “fast”, according to http://friendsofmorocco.org/Docs/Dict/Tamazizght_toc.htm
[3] ITTL name for the Sahara, from a Berber word meaning “desert” (etymology of the Ténéré region in OTL Niger and Chad).
[4] Sarmuhene is the general term for the ruling Akan emperor; however, “the Sarmuhene” without further qualifications always refers to Anto Kyerewa. For the sake of clarity, here it's mostly used in the latter sense.


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In the next installment: a powerful enemy takes on India.
 
This timeline is great, man! Awesome! How did you come up with the idea of a World Religion starting among the Akan people in the first place. How far are you planning to take this? Anyway, this is great!
 
Shit! Persians are coming! Or some alt-Greeks? Or Turkic nomads? Hoping to get an answer soon enough, though, as an update.

Around this time if the Nandas fail to maintain their integrity, their vassals are surely starting to break off at the first chance. And anyway what is the territorial extent of the Nandas as of now? Because it would help us understand the political situation in India better. A map is surely in order.

Though I remember something happening in China, I think that might have some link to this foreign invader. Maybe the Yuezhi moving early due to those events in China or maybe some another unseen and unthinkable foe coming down from even more North of the Yuezhi. I also fervently pray that the prospective invaders better not be the thricedamned Hunas.

Well what if the Alans move East due to some reason and end up invading India? I know it's difficult to be possible, but just a thought.
 
This timeline is great, man! Awesome! How did you come up with the idea of a World Religion starting among the Akan people in the first place. How far are you planning to take this? Anyway, this is great!

Thanks! I was planning to bring it about to present time, if I manage it. A few months ago I was thinking about the major religions that could exist by then: of course Islam and Christianity are out, so I thought of making a vaguely Islam-like religion arising and spreading from a (initially) marginal region. West Africa seemed a good choice - it was sorta inspired by a TL I read about a year ago in which a victorious Carthage spurred development south of the Sahara. Eventually I zoomed in on the Akan, as their religion seemed useful for this purpose, and their position in the Niger Basin made them a good connection between the Sahara and Nigeria.

@Emperor of Greater India: you will see ;)

In the meantime, here's how the Nanda Empire is supposed to look right now. As you can see, it's a bit smaller than the Maurya was this time IOTL, to account a bit for the problems with infrastructures that were mentioned before in the thread. To the west is a complicated mixture of Indian, Saka and Persian people; to the east, the outskirts of the Chu Empire and possibly some Burmese states (?); to the south, a number of Dravidian states, most importantly Chola; to the north, well, ice. As always, critiques are welcome.

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possibly some Burmese states (?)

Burma would probably be incredibly regionalized and divided at this time. The Kingdom of Pagan (unrelated to the word for polytheistic) was the first state to unite Burma and that wouldn't be until the 900s.

Although, it'd be interesting if that could go differently judging by the massive changes this timeline's going to bring.
 
14. Blood on the Ganges (ca. 20 – 230 AS)

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The Saka people that Khotan led to the conquest of Turan had arisen from the chaos of the Sarmatian expansion, the same that had brought the ruin of Qin; they rejected Hellenic influence, and they remained proudly nomadic for many generations. Of course they found the control of a former Persian province to be more profitable, but they had never given up their traditional lifestyle. Rather, they had left the local hierarchies in place, regularly exacting tributes from them.

Even in the early 1st century AS, the Turanshah lived in a nomadic camp on the bare hills beneath the Pamir, while a representative, typically a Persian son-in-law, sat on the throne in Balkh. Ever since Khotan the royal family had been nominally Zoroastrian, although they kept sacrificing horses to Anahita in private.

Along with urban culture, monument building and monotheism, the Saka learned from their Persian subjects a taste for conquest. In the east, the lands of India were impoverished enough by the Melakan War to be vulnerable, but, unlike Parthia in the west, still rich enough to be attractive. Dharmavarman was dead, and the new chakravartin Khinnabhagya eschewed his duty of rebuilding the empire. In the middle there were many Indo-Persian kingdom that had gained independence as the empire crumbled, such as Gandhara, or Nanda vassals that had exploited the empire's weakness to exert more autonomy, such as Pattala and Yavana. They swayed between new vassalage and autonomy, depending on the boldness of their kings, and the fullness of their treasury.

Pattala was the first to suffer. Saka scouts appeared near the Indus delta about ten years after the end of the Melakan War. From Balkh the Saka horde, not very different from the conquerors of Turan when Achaemenid Persia fell apart, reached the capital Patalene, and pillaged it for five days, before withdrawing. Over the following years, Saka troops robbed many caravans and cities on the western bank of the Indus.

News spread quickly. In an attempt to exert his authority over the lost western vassals, Khinnabhagya attempted a (somewhat half-hearted) punitive expedition in 45 AS [89 BC], relying mostly on large blocks of heavily armored soldiers. It was a complete failure; the Iranic horsemen were very skilled at retreating from direct confrontations, attracting enemies in unfavorable terrain and leaving before a reprisal, like their Scythian forefathers had done with Darius several centuries before.

The next year a Saka army commanded by general Baghra, distant descendant of Khotan, crossed the Indus river. The Nanda border fortresses, still undermanned, were quickly overwhelmed. To an opulent pan-Indian empire, which hadn't fought a significant land war in generations and had long forgotten the notion of powerful enemies in the west, the sudden appearance of these nimble raiders from the western desert was deeply alarming.

In the summer of 48 AS [86 BC] there was rejoicing in the streets of Purushapura: the king of Gandhara was sending an army with thirteen war elephants against the Saka onslaught. They expected the invaders to be humbled and terrified by the sight of the beasts. They weren't. After a brief retreat that was mistaken for a rout, the Saka armies released dozens of horses with burning bundles tied on their back. The elephants were scared away by fire, and many of them ended up trampling their own army.

Contemporary reports stress the fearlessness of the Saka, ascribing it to a superhuman bravery that broke the spirit of the Indian warriors; in reality, the Saka were simply already familiar with the use of war elephants having seen them in action in Persia – and possibly they had learned from the ever-present Celtic mercenaries, some of whom might have seen them during Agyenim's war on Qart-Hadasht.

Mutilated survivors were sent back in what was supposed to be a triumphal parade, in an act calculated to inflict the greatest damage on Indian morale. Riots broke out in the streets of Pataliputra, as people saw the weakness of the empire in the face of an invader. As the new year began, the Saka were now deep into Nanda territory. Cities that surrendered to Baghra, like Sravasti, were mostly spared, though they had their walls broken down and their rulers executed; cities that tried to resist, like Varanasi, were massacred to the last infant. Records speak of the Kalingan Sea [Bengal Gulf] dyed red by the blood flowing down the Ganges.

The accounts of these events have been heavily embellished and even mythologized, and only in the latest decades they’ve been reconstructed with something approaching historical plausibility (see Arni Juuso's annotations on the Mahabhagna, the 10th century poem that describes these years). The invaders are described as nothing less than demons fed by human blood; archaeological evidence suggest that at least some of the greatest atrocities were true, probably for the purpose of scaring into submission new cities. Bodies were burned in pyres by the hundreds or thousands at the feet of city walls.

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Bas-relief in Kanchipuram. Art depicting the Saka conquest of India has a typical chaotic quality.

This part of Indian history can be described as a long, chaotic, desperate flight. Many noble families left for the southern lands, correctly thinking that the hills and jungle of the south would be less suited to the Saka cavalry than the flat, deforested north. Many craftsmen and warriors followed them – those who hadn’t chosen to die in the north; it was mostly farmers that stayed behind, being bound to their land. Thus the south found itself with an overabundance of northern higher castes.

This event created a deep cultural rift between the Indian people in the north and the south: even the ethnically Indo-Aryan peoples that remained as subjects of the Saka would be considered with mistrust and suspicion. The adoption of Zoroastrianism in the north, favored by the death or relocation of Hindu priests and brahmins, drove further the cultural wedge, fanning the flames of Shivaist fervor in the south.

By 52 AS [82 BC] the Saka horde reached the harbor of Chittagong, in eastern Bangla, which surrendered without a fight. Of course, Nanda Empire collapsed even in the parts that were not conquered. The surviving royal family fled to a mountain fortress near Kapilavastu, on the Himachalan mountainsides. The southern provinces spent many years fighting over the legitimate succession of the empire in central India, especially the future kingdoms of Kalinga and Maharatta; they eventually agreed to recognize as successor the harmless region around Kapilavastu, which wasn’t able to exert its will on anyone else.

Baghra died a few months after the surrender of Chittagong, in the monsoon season: as he was crossing the Ganges during a rainstorm, an old bridge gave way beneath him, and he drowned. The Shah Arshak was deeply pained, and vowed to stop all conquest until Baghra's body was recovered, which never happened. His bones probably still lie below the Bengali mud along with thousands of others.

Arshak went to Pataliputra to take power as first Hindushah – the former Nanda city would serve as his winter capital, while Balkh, high on the mountains of Bactria, would remain his summer capital. He would spend long years trying to suppress rebellions: five thousand prisoners were gathered around Pataliputra to be impaled around the city walls in occasion of the crowning. Numerous sacrifices to the Vedic gods were also made, though the new Shah couldn't officially take part.

Once they controlled the north of India, the Saka weren't as destructive. They had been “civilized”, so to speak, by their experience in Turan. In his old age, Arshak began to lay the plans for a massive new capital in the middle of the plain of Ganges: a city that would be under construction for generations, to showcase the Saka power and magnificence, as well as the flourishing of all Indian arts under their guidance. However, that city wouldn't become real for many generations yet. Many of his successors were patrons of the arts, commissioning monuments and poems in their honor. They would keep speaking the Saka language, written in a variety of the Sarmatian script.

While Parthia mostly ignored its neighbor in the east, China was quick to establish diplomatic links. The Saka had very little interest in hegemony over the sea, which allowed the Chu to expand in the southeast. However, this phase of the Chu dynasty saw an increase in corruption of the Chinese bureaucracy, as well as the wealth and political power of the lords. The result was the establishment of Chinese fiefdoms on the Malay islands through what could be only described as private armies.

The peak of the Saka empire is traditionally identified with the kingdom of Artadeva in the 3rd century AS. By this time a complex system of paved roads and canals connected all the major cities from Purushapura to Chittagong, and many public works like libraries and gardens had been built; population had full recovered, now exceeding 30 millions. The synthesis of Indo-Iranian art was complete, and the brutality of the initial conquest forgotten by most. However, a nationalistic variety of Hinduism was spreading, and the temples were hotbeds of unrest. The Saka elite made efforts to keep itself culturally distinct from the population, and thence would come the empire's undoing.

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The Hindushah Arshak, statue in Sarmatian style.
In the next installment: China becomes interesting again...
 
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