World Without West

Awesome to see the "birds and worms" script get a shout-out. I've always thought it's extremely pretty. Of course, with Chu being a dominant empire, at least for the time being, the script may well get a boost. I'm not sure if it can work out timeframe-wise, but how cool would it be for Japan - or Nihon, rather - to base its own script on the "birds and worms" script, borrowing from China as in OTL, but just in a different way?

Very cool indeed, and I can see Korean scholars like Ho Seung'eun to pass on a modified version of the "birds and worms", maybe even some sort of syllabic or phonemic derivation.

What was the language spoken by the people of Nihon (I mean south of the Emishi)? Was it related to the language of Mahan?

Those are simply Japanese and Korean, though probably derived from some slightly different dialects. I haven't worked out their differences, so if I need to translate something I'll just use OTL Japanese and Korean. As for being related, well, there are some linguists who speculate they're part of the Altaic macro-family along with Turkish and Mongolian, but that's controversial to say the least.
 
Minor update: the names of the major empires of the classical age in the local writing (ignoring the Sarmatian empire, since they use almost the same script as the Saka).
(Not actual birds-and-worms, I haven't yet found any references, so I had to make up something that looks vaguely acceptable to my ignorant eyes.)

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17. Forests of the North (265 – 500 AS)

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Reconstruction of an early Slavic ritual

In the far north of Eurasia, winters were growing longer and harsher. The ancient Sarmatian empire had long been preserved by its flexibility, but after centuries its tribes were slipping out of control. Few leaders still met at the council of Tanais, and the fires of Tabiti were now cold. Unable to coordinate defense, the thinned nations were leaving their pastures vulnerable to strangers – or to their own kin.

Among these we found the Slavs, a poorly known collection of peoples probably native of the steppes around the Danupra [Dnieper]. They had been a part of the Sarmatian empire for the better part of a millennium [1], and now they felt their control slip away. Unlike the Scythians, they were mostly farmers, which had greatly increased their number during the warm centuries of the Imperial Age; but now productivity was falling, and they found themselves in need for more land.

Under their leader Svyatomir, the Slavs carved a kingdom of their own around 265 AS [131 AD]. They're described in rather grim terms by later histories (none of which, of course, was written by them), with tales of prisoners sacrificed to boar-idols in cannibalistic rituals. A military expedition sent by the Sarmatian rulers disappeared without a trace. What's certainly true is that they demanded heavy tributes from the herding tribes around. As the climate became harsher, the pastures suffered, and border skirmishes increased in frequency.

There were attempts from many Iranic tribes to rebel on their own, all met with failure. Those tribes were competing among themselves for pasture lands as well, and they didn't trust each other enough to coordinate. By the end of the century, the Sarmatian rule of this region wasn't even nominal, and Slavic warlords were the only source of order.

According to the Chronicle of Antiquity, elders of the oppressed tribes wandered the roads and the countryside for a full year, asking the strongest warriors to lead an alliance, but all refused, fearing their potential allies more than their enemies. Eventually the elders found a boy tending to a beehive. He presented to them as Kartan, and claimed that he belonged to a people living farther in the east that could fight the Slavs for them, if only they pledged allegiance to him. The desperate elders accepted.

In the spring of 337 AS [203 AD], the Turkish people crossed the Danupra. Displaced centuries before by the Sarmatian expansion, they were mostly fur hunters and shepherds well adapted to cold climates, but they had retained their skill with horses. They defeated the Slavs a year later in the battle of Savashalan (whose exact location still hasn't been determined), and soon rallied the Iranic tribes around them. Unable to repel a coordinated rebellion, the kingdom of Svyatomir fell apart in a few years.

Kartan, who had by himself considerable tactical abilities, exploited his pact with the Iranic elders to gain power among his own people. He married nine women from the allied tribes, and had at least twelve sons from them. [2] After the campaign, he sent emissaries to Tanais with a tribute of furs and horses, which made him nominally a Sarmatian vassal, but left him with every liberty of action. He didn't bother to wait for a response. Rather, he went on to pursue the surviving Slavs as they retreated north.

The growing Turk state moved well out of the reach of the fading empire, carrying with them part of the Iranic peoples, as others remained in the old pastures. Eventually the tribes gave up the pursuit and settled on the southern shore of the great Altoka lake [3], where they founded the city of Köl. In 362 AS [228 AD] Boran the Great, Kartan's eldest son, was hailed by the warriors as khagan of Altoka. So the first great Turk state was established in the far north of Asia.

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Boran Khagan (340 - 406 AS)

Other Turkic nations would come soon later. The Qipchaq settled down in the swampy delta of the Atil river [Volga], where they're still a significant presence. In the following centuries, they scattered upriver, taking a traditional role as mystics and shamans who were never quite assimilated in the new Zoroastrian culture. The Khazars broke into two segments, one settling around the Tauris, and the other reaching as far south as Mesopotamia. They are remembered mostly for plundering the Armenian monasteries and for bringing a cold-resistant horse breed to the Iranian mountains.

Others yet stayed behind, but kept in contact with their western brethren, creating a long belt of kindred peoples stretching throughout Asia.

Thanks to its cultural ties with the Turkic nations still in the steppe, Altoka would be a powerful middleman between the heart of Asia and the far west. Zoroastrian missionaries from Armenia appeared at Boran's court, leaving precious copies of the Gatha [4], that would be studied, translated in Turkish and copied onto birch bark over the following centuries.

The Khaganate’s produces included furs (those from wolves were especially prized), beeswax, honey and amber. The most enthusiastic buyers were the Etruscan states of the Pados [Po] basin: as the functionaries of the confederation had turned into a hereditary aristocracy, large cities such as Mantua and Hatria held a concentration of rich families that vied for status by displaying expensive foreign goods. For its novelty, nordic amber was very prized: in the decade between 415 and 425 AS [281-291 AD], its price increased almost twenty-fold.

The battles and migrations associated with the Turkish expansion compounded the shifting of peoples. Surviving Slavs arrived in great numbers in Zhemaitia [Lithuania] and in the Saami lands, carrying an extensive inventory of iron tools. Around the same time, the most daring Celtic merchants started landing on the western coast of Iskadia [Scandinavia], trading amber with oil, wine, incense, and, most crucially, bronze.

The scarcity of local tin, as well as isolation, meant that bronze production had always been minimal in Iskadia. However, the new interest of western traders for amber allowed elites to develop in the richer sites and accumulate bronze tools and weapons as a status symbol. In a sense, an extremely late Bronze Age flourished in northwestern Eurasia. Clans that controlled the mines turned into a wealthy aristocracy, hiring forces to submit their neighbors and limiting the circulation of weapons beyond their control. Even monumental architecture reappeared: the “sea pillars” of Sulfjord. Population flocked to cities, and the largest center, Tinhofn (literally “the harbor of tin”) counted 50 000 inhabitants in the 5th century AS.

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Left: the Sea Pillars of Sulfjord. Right: Etruscan noblewomen (Mantua, circa 420 AS).
[1] IOTL, the oldest Slavic cultures were apparently subjected to the Scythians; the rivers Dnieper, Dniester, Don and Danube all derive their name from danu, which is Scythian for “river”.
[2] See OTL Samo, early king of the Slavs.
[3] Lake Ladoga in northwestern Russia, as known by its Karelian name (Aaltokas).
[4] Verse hymns allegedly composed in Avestan by Zoroaster himself.

In the next installment: an ancient order breaks down along the Atlantic shore.
 

Skallagrim

Banned
Not only does an alt-Atilla (Altilla?) figure show up early in comparison to OTL: he manages to introduce a cool northern trade network to the TL. Yes. Very good. I approve.
 
18. At the Doors of the Great Sea (430 – 730 AS)

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After its defeat at Agyenim's hands, it was only a matter of time before Qart-Hadasht joined Babylon, Sparta and Xianyang in the cemetery of history. The once proud city was barely kept alive by food imports from its last strongholds in Enotria, its noblemen squabbling over purely cosmetic titles, its famed merchants by now more faithful to ports on the other side of the Mediterranean, from the Libyco-Celtic Sagunte to the distant Varna on the Pontus [1].

The countless Celtic polities had coalesced around three major coastal cities, separated by smaller kingdoms with shifting alliances. In the southeast, Sagunte had taken Qart-Hadasht's place as the hub of trade in the western Mediterranean; it had a mixed population with significant Zangi and Etruscan influence, and practiced a sort of heretical Nyamism inspired by Mensa of Medewi's cosmopolitan writings. Through Vetluna, it had close ties with the Pados states. In the southwest, Agadir held the monopoly on the passage of ships through the Strait of Calpe; its ships were found in Tanais and Per-Amun. In the far west, Lissuba was more focused on the northwestern coast of Asia.

Three kings sat in the three cities, keeping an uneasy pact with each other. Population was growing fast, and with it the demand for food and wares; but the Mediterranean was far too urbanized to build colonies as the Hellenes and Phoenicians had done centuries before. The great Empty Ocean spread out in the west, but it was far too dangerous for the shorehugging ships.

All Keltistan was scarred by many small wars between these three poles and their shifting vassals. Other powers were involved, wishing for more influence in the far west, particularly Ionia and Kemet. The destruction of the Kemetic navy during a failed invasion of Sagunte is one of the major events of this country's decline. In these years also occurred the first large-scale Asian settlement of the Seal Islands, which until now had only been sporadically contacted by Carthaginian and Imazigh sailors.

This period was fertile ground for military poetry and drama. The Romance of the Three Kings, set during the reign of Gwylog the Wise in Agadir around 430 AS [300 AD], remains one of the greatest works of pre-oceanic Celtic literature. It's renown for an extraordinarily deep exploration of the old king's character as he becomes increasingly cynical in respect to politics and warfare; it follows with surprising accuracy four generations of battles, alliances, deceit, duels, court intrigues, political and religious plots, to finally end with Gwylog's eldest son defeating at once the armies of Lissuba and Sagunte, and then leaving Agadir for the southern colonies.

Even this victory proved short-lived. No more than five years after Gwylog's death, his kingdom was plundered by the Saguntean armies. It would take almost two centuries for a Lissubic-Agadirene alliance to destroy Sagunte and split their influence regions in a satisfactory way. The last king of Sagunte would die in exile in Varna in 644 AS [510 AD].

In the meantime, however, the kingdoms of Keltistan had managed to expand their influence in Libya. And during their century-long squabbles, Saguntean armies put an end to the long agony of Qart-Hadasht. The walls weren't even torn down, the ditches filled, or the harbor filled up, as it might have happened to powerful defeated cities; there was no need to.

Celtic merchants were also found in Akan lands, especially in the great coastal city of Asrir. They were mostly Agadirene citizens, though they rented their services to many. They were especially useful to Akan governors, since the Nyamist doctrine explicitly forbid high-mass, long-distance trade. Hence, they were at once necessary to the empire and despised by its citizens. To make matters worse, many held on to pagan customs, such as keeping antlered figurines on their ships as good luck tokens.

Violence was common in coastal cities, justified by lurid tales of Celts abducting children to be sacrificed in Carthaginian rites, and while they were under the protection of authorities, their freedom of movement was extremely limited.

It was in this climate that Agadirene traders and settlers moved farther down the coast of Western Libya. They established themselves in the new city of Deshcart, on a cape south of the Gold River [Senegal River] [2] in 465 AS [331 AD]. There they found the Serer, one of the many peoples expanding north as Akan authority in the region receded. The Mande, the Ewe, the Yoruba were to follow. They are known collectively as the kwasea, a rather derogatory Akan term for the pagans of the southern jungle. Through their new neighbors, many Serer moved to Asrir. [3]

All these peoples followed a mixture of Nyamism and their older polytheistic beliefs, though the semidivine Celtic hero Ogme [4] would become popular among them. The syncretic figure of Ogme-Anansi is still revered by their descendants in the New World. Nyamist practices and beliefs started affecting the newcomers, who found a much warmer reception than in the north. Celtic fishermen, for example, carved spiders on the prow of their boats as protection against storms.

It was in that time that the Adinkra – dozens of pictograms with specified symbols, which included both concepts such as faith or authority and objects such as palm fronds and sword – began being used for their phonemic value. This made possible to write down the speech of many different peoples with some accuracy, and resulted in the first alphabetic script since the extinction of the Hellenic script.

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Left: Yoruba warriors of the first Ile kingdom, circa 530 AS. Right: Igbo image of Ogme-Anansi.

It has long been a matter of debate whether it was the contraction of the Akan empire to draw in people from the south, or whether the pression of Kwasea nations caused its retreat. What's certain is that many Kwasea warlords managed to carve great but short-lived kingdoms on its borderlands. Usually they started by plundering mines and cities, using their salt and gold to buy the support of warriors and artists, and were promptly killed or chased away as soon as said gold ended. Local governors were often bribed, killed, or co-opted in the new polity.

To give an example, around 590 AS [460 AD], Akoma was taken over by the Yoruba under the warlord Ikoko. His conversion to Nyamism was one of the first among the Kwasea, and together with the Turkish adoption of Zoroastrianism it exemplifies a major trend of this age: peripheral peoples taking the place of the former empires, but partially assimilating to their culture. Perhaps too much: Ikoko had many books written in Adinkra or Hellenic script burned, and a thousand Celts slaughtered above Akuba's tomb.

As soon as the Yoruba ceased being raiders, they became the victims of raiding. Throughout the 7th century AS, Hausa horsemen attacked the cities of the upper Kwara, including Djenne and Akoma. Many Yoruba kings were killed in battle, or captured and tortured to death. By the end of the century, however, the Hausa were already largely assimilated to their neighbors in culture and politics. Ademayo of Dala, the great 8th century jurist and philosopher, was an almost full-blooded Hausa.

The original Nyamist teachings were heavily affected by the polytheistic Kwasea religions. The Yoruba worshiped Nyame as a variety of “aspects” suspiciously similar to their former deities: for example, Nyame “the fruitful” was represented in a female form certainly derived from the goddess Oshun. To call such beings with their old names was dangerous, in the earliest centuries. The Hausa, on the other hand, accepted a stricter monotheism, but they considered their monarchs descendants of Nyame. Repeated cycles of fragmentation, heresy, reformation and purges occurred, which historians of religion are still trying to untangle. Artworks of breathtaking beauty were created, and many of them destroyed.

While the western empire went through all these changes, the east was more stable. In fact, it seems eerily quiet, harvests and religious ceremonies going on decade after decade. Uneventful reigns succeeded almost indistinguishable in the royal fortresses on the Chad Lake. Maps depicting the whole Akan Empire as one and undisturbed were produced as late as ca. 540 AS [410 AD]. Plenty of art and philosophy was created in this time, but later commentators would describe them as static and uninspired: wooden statues, for example, show almost no variation between 450 and 550 AS. Chadian scholars would refer to this situation as the “stone empire”.

It would take a much greater shock to break it.

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Eastern Akan border cavalry, circa 600 AS

[1] In Bulgaria; Varna is first mentioned around 600 AD OTL, but the site goes back to Neolithic times.
[2] Same location where Dakar is IOTL.
[3] Usage note: the word zangi, despite its origins in the Ivory Road, now typically refers to people from East Africa (Ethiopians, Somali, Swahili, Malagasy, etc.), while kwasea is used for people from West and Central Africa (Serer, Mande, Yoruba, Kongo, etc.). The unflattering etymology of kwasea is a common point of contention.
[4] Or Ogmios, a character akin to Heracles. OTL, he's described by Lucian of Samosata as having chains of amber and gold that represent powers of persuasion and eloquence. He's not quite the same as the Irish god Oghma.

In the next installment: India casts off its chains.
 
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Skallagrim

Banned
The great Empty Ocean [Atlantic] spread out in the west, but it was far too dangerous for the shorehugging ships.

remains one of the greatest works of pre-oceanic Celtic literature

It would seem that the great Empty Ocean won't remain too dangerous to traverse for that much longer! Celts in America? Cool.


This period was fertile ground for military poetry and drama. The Romance of the Three Kings, set during the reign of Gwylog the Wise in Agadir around 430 AS [300 AD] [...] an extraordinarily deep exploration of the old king's character as he becomes increasingly cynical in respect to politics and warfare; it follows with surprising accuracy four generations of battles, alliances, deceit, duels, court intrigues, political and religious plots, to finally end with Gwylog's eldest son defeating at once the armies of Lissuba and Sagunte, and then leaving Agadir for the southern colonies.

Sounds like a great story! A tantalising hint at the great epics of this alternate history. Would that I could read them all.


Violence was common in coastal cities, justified by lurid tales of Celts abducting children to be sacrificed in Carthaginian rites, and while they were under the protection of authorities, their freedom of movement was extremely limited.

This bit comes across as something much like the blood libel often used in antisemitic context in OTL's history. Maybe the racist "evil merchant"/Shylock stereotype gets applied to Celts in this ATL? That would suck, although realistically speaking, dirty nonsense like that is always going to be around in some form or other...


Right: Igbo image of Ogme-Anansi.

That is one freaky syncretic tentacle-god. I rather like him.
 
This bit comes across as something much like the blood libel often used in antisemitic context in OTL's history. Maybe the racist "evil merchant"/Shylock stereotype gets applied to Celts in this ATL? That would suck, although realistically speaking, dirty nonsense like that is always going to be around in some form or other...

Pretty much that, yes. As far as I understand it, minorities focused on commerce and money manipulations are commonly hated in history, especially in rural societies - Jews in the West, Chinese in Southeast Asia, Indians in former British Africa... ITTL, it happens to Celts (and other people that we'll see later). The situation here is especially ugly because not only Nyamists have a specific injunction against large-scale trade, but they historically associate it with Carthage, and they associate Carthage with human sacrifice. I mean, of course Celts have nothing to do whatsoever with the old Baal worship, which by now is nearly extinct anyway, but there's still the (unconscious?) assumption that "sacrificing children is the sort of thing people like these do".

That is one freaky syncretic tentacle-god. I rather like him.

Heh. Post-syncretic Ogme is a rather awesome god, all considered. He's the amber-tongued deity of haggling, advertising, seduction and fast-talking. You'd pray to him when you have to give a speech, write down a contract, ask someone out, or calm down an angry mob. If you're a politician or a businessman in TTL present, your house probably has its own shrine to Ogme.
 
Pretty much that, yes. As far as I understand it, minorities focused on commerce and money manipulations are commonly hated in history, especially in rural societies - Jews in the West, Chinese in Southeast Asia, Indians in former British Africa... ITTL, it happens to Celts (and other people that we'll see later). The situation here is especially ugly because not only Nyamists have a specific injunction against large-scale trade, but they historically associate it with Carthage, and they associate Carthage with human sacrifice. I mean, of course Celts have nothing to do whatsoever with the old Baal worship, which by now is nearly extinct anyway, but there's still the (unconscious?) assumption that "sacrificing children is the sort of thing people like these do".



Heh. Post-syncretic Ogme is a rather awesome god, all considered. He's the amber-tongued deity of haggling, advertising, seduction and fast-talking. You'd pray to him when you have to give a speech, write down a contract, ask someone out, or calm down an angry mob. If you're a politician or a businessman in TTL present, your house probably has its own shrine to Ogme.
cool, how Judaism and will there be any new religions? will Buddhism spread to Europe and the rest of non Asia, same with Hinduism? and hows philosophy and any new types of governments and ideology's that dont exist in our world?
 
Judaism is mostly mingling with the other Middle Eastern religions - the strict monotheistic wing will eventually be absorbed by Zoroastrianism. Buddhism isn't having much more luck, without Ashoka's conversions it's simply one of the many minority religions of India. As for Hinduism, it will appear in-story soon.
Philosophy? I don't have much material on secular philosophies here, except a few sketches for late in the future. The closest thing to one is Chinese Mohism, which I describe in chapters 6 and 7. All the changes and schisms in Nyamism, combined with the new infusion of literacy, make for some tormented theology, though.
I do have plans for some novel ideology, but it's still to come. I'll leave you a couple names - Madarism and Yunism. As always, I welcome any suggestion.
 
I love your timeline and I respect a lot the seriousness of your work, but I would like to make a remark and then ask you something: I take it that you are not a follower of the "great men" school of history. Neither am I. And is even understandable that, since western culture as we know it, and its focus on the accomplishments of individuals, does not exist ITTL, there will be a lesser number of legendary men, but then, I believe that the cult of legendary heroes and founding fathers have played a major role in the developpement of cultures all over the world and it seems to me that you haven't exploited the idea very much. Do you already have plans for any "great conqueror" à la Alexander, Caesar, Chandragupta, Ashoka, Wu Di or Attila? You have mentionned religious, militar and political leaders, but I have the impression that, except for the Sarmuhane, none of them have reached mythic status. Also, Happy New Year to everyone!
 
@245:

Judaism as we know it will go the way of OTL Zoroastrianism - there could be several thousands of traditional believers in a rather restricted region, but nothing more; and even then, it will be much more friendly to polytheism and to what they used to consider idolatry. How tolerated it will be will depend from who will rule that region at any given time. There'll no longer be a distinct Jewish people as IOTL; on the upside, there will be nothing like the pogroms or the Holocaust.

@Omar20:

Good questions, good questions. Being in the field of nature sciences, I'm more sympathetic to a soft materialist/environmental-determinist interpretation of history, of the kind described in the first half of this post. Of course this leaves room for alternative roads (e.g. Celts taking the sea) and for the initiative of people in the right place (Merenatem, Kartan, the Sarmuhene). Some of them do in fact have mythical status: Kartan is remembered as the heroic patriarch of the Turks, and Merenatem I almost became an outright god (reminder that ITTL the Egyptian religion is still alive and well). Hoa Van Khiem/Fo Man Him is not quite a religious figure, but he became somewhat like Charlemagne in chivalrous tales, an archetype on which all sorts of legends were applied. More will come - keep your eyes on Sudan, or the Urals.
 
19. The Flower Republics (291 – 790 AS)

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While the Saka had had no qualms in destroying holy sites during the conquest war, they didn't generally target the Vedic religion during their rule; rather, they were content with having their own belief system distinct from that of the population, even taking pride in their policy of tolerance. Varanasi was allowed to recover from the former devastation, and became once again a center of the worship of Shiva. This changed once Pramshen occupied the throne in 291 AS [157 AD].

More fond of Indian environment than his predecessors, he took as permanent capital of his empire in the newly completed Rajanagara, the City of Kings, built around a majestic imperial palace, opened in gardens, fountains and paved squares. The recent development of arches allowed the creation of monumental multi-story buildings. Massive statues of simurgh, the griffins of Iranian tradition, loomed above the streets. It also held the largest fire temple ever built.

Pramshen wasn't content with ruling India, but rather he wanted to remake it in his image; he was a zealous Zoroastrian, and held in contempt the “demon worship” of the native Indians. He also suffered from a poorly understood pulmonary disease, which he blamed on the corruption of the land. He spent hours every day inhaling the fumes of burning flowers and spices.

Worship of the Vedic gods was banned, and many public offenders were beheaded in the square before of the great temple. Copies of the Vedas and the Upanishads were burned in the streets, a practice the scholar Vishvagita condemned by throwing himself in one of the bonfires. Rebellions started to appear in the cities of the empire, even a sort of guerrilla warfare led by Shaivist brahmin. To learn the holy writings by heart became a common practice among the brahmin, to preserve them from destruction.

The figure of Bhairavaputra emerged around 302 AS [168 AD] as a powerful rebel leader fighting against Pramshen's religious police. Claimed to have reappeared after many assassinations and executions, he probably wasn't an actual individual as much as a role passed among different leaders. The story also claims an exceptional martial prowess and even a miraculous birth (out of a large bonfire of Vedas in the countryside around Pataliputra).

As Pramshen's health worsened during his final years, his behavior became more erratic, alternating nights of quiet, solitary meditation with orders of slaughters and mass executions that could go on for days. A mass grave recently found near Varanasi contains over 1500 skulls, allegedly piled over a couple days. A complex of Vedic temples including the great Kashi Vishvanatha was razed to the ground [1] and purified with fire to build a massive “place of death”. A dakhma or “tower of silence” [2] destined to Pramshen himself was raised in the center.

In 314 AS [180 AD], the emperor was found dead after one of his nights of contemplation. The rebellion against the Saka domination didn't end with his death, however; in the following ten years, a ragtag army assembled itself in the eastern provinces, and defeated the imperial garrisons in many occasions. Pramshen's successor, Mazdachashma, couldn't bring himself to repress the rebellion as violently as his uncle.

Overwhelmingly recorded by Vedic historians, the native war of restoration has long been interpreted as a heroic struggle against foreign oppressors. It should be noted, however, that most Zoroastrians in India were ethnically native people of low (or no) caste, dalit and shudra who had found relief in the new casteless society. The Saka could have never ruled for so long, nor Pramshen impose his faith so firmly, without their support.

Violence and unrest quickly made the administration of the empire impossible, and the power of the Saka crumbled within a generation. The rebels, however, had no coherent power structure: predictably enough, they started fighting each other as soon as the rulers were no longer a concern.

The Nanda dynasty, already mistrusted in the decades after the Melakan War, had lost all its legitimacy in the Saka invasion, between Khinnabhagya's poor management and his eventual flight to the mountains. Now the Nanda family survived as rulers of a peripheral mountain kingdom with no reasonable claim to the Indian mainland. They ruled over little more than yaks and goats. Thus, it provided a harmless source of legitimacy: the new governors pledged allegiance to the Nanda emperor in his mountain fortress, and administered the liberated cities as they wished, free from each other's interference.

In 352 AS [218 AD] the vaishya Navjagruti, elected governor of the Gujarati port of Minnagara, called a council of scholars to develop wise laws for the region. Thus began the age of the Flower Republics.

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Left: a miniature of the palace of Minnagara. Right: Perso-Indian musicians.

They were so called because wisdom and beauty were said to “bloom” forth from five great cities – Minnagara in the southwest, Puri in the southeast, Chittagong in the northeast, Purushapura in the northwest, and Varanasi in the center – over the surrounding land. Their form was based on the ancient republics of the Low Ganges. A council that included representatives of the four castes gathered in a hall called santhagara to debate and vote on important issues. Minor centers could send emissaries to the closest great city to make requests and present gifts. A similar government would be adopted in the Dravidian state of Chola in the far south.

The most powerful of the Five was Kalinga, having a vast population and a privileged access to the trade networks of Southeast Asia; Bangla had a lesser role, though the fertile Ganges lowlands granted it the largest population, while Gujarat attempted expeditions into Arabiyya and Eastern Libya with modest success. Gandhara had to be content with the more meager land routes, and Kashi with the prestige (and pilgrimage revenues) of the holy city of Varanasi.

Between the 2nd and the 4th century, Shaivism [3] consolidated out of the Vedic beliefs as a religion in its own right. In contempt of Pramshen's book-burning, it emphasized reading and memorizing the Vedas from a young age, which created probably the most literate society that had existed until then. A common form of devotion was (and is) meditating on the frailty of existence, as represented in the rites with holy ash collected from cremation grounds.

In these centuries much of Rajanagara fell into disrepair: even the magnificent fire temple lost part of its covering. The population of the city fell to about 50,000, most of the rest having moved to Varanasi. Zoroastrian funerals were still conducted in the dakhma, but they were often heckled and disrupted by Shaivist onlookers. Many Zoroastrians sought refuge in the east, in the fertile basin of the Iravati [Irrawaddy] river, on the delta of which they built the city of Behdin.

In atmanic [4] interpretations, Shaivism's grim focus on the inevitability of death led to an exuberance of life expressed in art, music, and poetry, supremely concretized in the late winter festival of Maha Shivaratri, with its ecstatic dances and sexual imagery. A more cynical interpretation is that the new rulers were mostly vaishya unconnected to the earlier ruling families, with no source of legitimacy other than their wealth (which had been crucial in supporting the efforts of rebellion), and no better way to display their wealth than by hiring artists and scholars. In fact, it took almost two centuries for the full splendor we associate to the Flower Republics to appear after Navjagruti's first council.

The four outer cities quickly drifted away from each other, each developing its distinct culture, each absorbing features and techniques from their foreign partners, whether they were the Khazar shepherds newly settled on the Iranian highlands, the Amun-worshiping fishermen of Dilmun, or the Annamite gung of Huo China. In the middle stood the shrines of Varanasi, holding together the common identity of the Flower Republics; locked away from coasts and mountain passes, it grew rich on tolls and donations from the pilgrims, and its temples brimmed with beautifully carved gold and silver, coral and ebony, Libyan ivory and Chinese jade.

Once again, Indian states showed interest in the outer world. We'll see in a future chapter what will come from this.

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[1] The Kashi Vishwanath was actually destroyed IOTL in 1669 by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, to be rebuilt about a century later after the fall of the Mughal empire.
[2] A platform used in the Zoroastrian practice to dehydrate dead bodies in the sun and expose them to carrion birds.
[3] From Sanskrit “shaiva” (“pertaining to Shiva”). Note that TTL Shaivism is not quite the same as IOTL.
[4] A philosophy of history that sees events as primarily driven by beliefs and ideologies. It’s contrasted with a brahmanic school, that is more holistic and teleological, and a prakritic school, which seeks to explain events through material causes.

In the next installment: the transformation of Europe is complete.
 

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Hey! How's everything going? I hope you are doing well and plan to continue the Timeline. Quick question? How are the Middle East and Ionia? You mention Khazar incursions in Armenia and Mesopotamia, but it seems to me both regions have been kind of stable for over almost a millenium under Egypt and the succesor Persians states. Considering the cultural richness of the Levant IOTL, in spite of -some say thanks to- its traditional lack of stability, one can think the Eastern Meditarrenan would be flourishing with art, litterature and philosophy. And also religious diversity wich brings me to another question, is there still anyone around worshipping the Greek Pantheon or at least a synchretic form of it? Are the Turkic or Slavic peoples keeping their traditional religions? ITTL, I can see Polytheism putting a harder fight to Monotheistic faiths.
 
Oh wow, I've left this behind or so long.Yes, I do have plan to continue the timeline, ideally up to present times, I've just have had other things to work on in the meantime.

By this point, all the Middle East is a mess of petty post-Persian states, mostly fighting each other. Kemet projects a great influence here, and indeed it directly controls Cyprus and Crete. Ionia - OTL Greece plus the Aegean coast of Turkey - is fully part of this world, a sort of feudal state with a rural aristocracy. It's more on the Egyptian end of the cultural spectrum (mummification is popular among the wealthy). Tales of the Olympian Gods are still told, though usually with Egyptian names, and sometimes interpreted as aspects of Ahura Mazda (Thoth-Hermes is said to be His wisdom, for example). The Homeric poems are also passed on, though the versions that are eventually written down may not be quite the same as IOTL. This mixing of cultures certainly does produce many interesting artworks, if not very original ones, at least for now. (Future historians will accuse this period of Egyptian culture to be sterile repetition of antiquity, but anyway it's not going to last much longer.)
You're right that polytheism has a much better fighting chance in this world. The Indian and Celtic religions (the latter with the West African influences described in chapter 18) will be the most dominant. Turks and Slavs will largely move over to Zoroastrianism, however: the original religions will be relegated to small enclaves (somewhat like Zoroastrians IOTL, I guess). Their faith will still be colored by the old beliefs though, especially among rural peoples who don't care too much about what their more othodox brethren believe.
Admittedly the millennium of stability is largely due to me not having many ideas to work on that region. The butterflies had started local, but now they're swarming all over the Old World. Most future chapter will be more snapshots than a full, complete history.
 
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