The Blistering South

North Africa

The Sahara on one side, the Mediterranean on the other; these are the boundaries that define North Africa. Civilization was introduced to the region when Phoenicians began to colonize the area to provide resting places along their many trade routes around the Mediterranean. These colonies grew over time and eventually became quite powerful. Notable amongst them was Carthage, which rapidly grew and gobbled up other colonies in the area. When the old centers of the Phoenician world, Tyre and Sidon, were conquered by the Persians, a great exodus was seen as many Phoenicians fled to the colonies in the west. During this time Carthage signed a treaty with the Roman Republic in which the western Mediterranean was divided between the two of them. Carthage spent the next two centuries expanding its power throughout Northern Africa, into Iberia, and onto Sicily. When Tyre and Sidon fell to Alexander they were reduced to minor regional powers, and Carthage emerged as the new center of Phoenician culture.

Carthage’s moment of greatness was not to last for long, serving as undisputed masters of the Mediterranean for less than a century. At that time only two powers remained in the western Mediterranean, Carthage and the Roman Republic. War was inevitable. The two great powers fought a series of three wars in which Carthage was slowly pushed back and eventually completely destroyed. When the Romans sacked Carthage after the third Punic War, the city was burned to the ground and the surrounding earth salted so that nothing would grow, thus wiping Carthage from the map forever.

North Africa spent the next millennium being subjugated by some foreign power or another. After the Romans came the Vandals. The Vandals used the region to launch raids throughout the Mediterranean, including on Rome itself. Shortly after establishing the Vandal Empire in the region, Rome was sacked by the Vandals, and the era of the Roman Empire officially came to and end. However, the Vandals’ time in the sun was not to last. Less than a century after they sacked Rome, the Vandals were driven out of North Africa by the forces of Byzantium under the Emperor Justinian. Most of the Vandals either fled the region or were enslaved, effectively permanently removing them from the region. The region would remain a Byzantine colony for the next four centuries.

Despite all this time under foreign rule, the people of North Africa had not forgotten that it was they who used to be Masters of the Mediterranean. When the Byzantine Empire began to decline as it was attacked by the newly formed Caliphate in the east, its hold on its western colonies began to loosen. It was during this time that two men stepped forward and united the people of North Africa to revolt against their masters. Hamilcar the Uniter was the center of the campaign to unite and incite the people of the region. Hannibal the Liberator, named after the famous Carthaginian general from antiquity, led the movements military wing, arranging raids and training an army of rebels. The Byzantine forces in the region were unable to be reinforced due to a conflict Byzantium was having with the Caliphate at the time, and quickly succumbed to the revolting populace. Hamilcar and Hannibal then set about creating a new government for this new power, which they had decided to name after the city where it had begun. Carthage.

The government of Carthage was to be a republic, just as it had been in its glorious past. After the government was established, Hamilcar was voted to be First Citizen of the Carthaginian Republic. The first act of the newly formed Carthaginian Republic was to send Hannibal and his formerly rebel army out to the surrounding provinces to drive out the Byzantines there and bring them under Carthaginian control. This was accomplished with little difficulty. It was not long before Carthage was once again a major power in the region. It quickly established itself as a major trading power on the Mediterranean, and a major military power in the world. Carthage expanded its territory rapidly at first; with a focus on driving the Byzantine Empire from North Africa. After this had been accomplished they expanded more slowly, eventually reaching Egypt in the east and Granada in the west. Carthage is not satisfied with this territory however, and has vowed to retake all the land which once belonged to the Carthage, notably Spain and Sicily.

In a region with the choices for expansion limited to a harsh, desolate wasteland on one hand or the sea on the other, it is no surprise there is an intense focus on seamanship in Carthage. All warriors in the region have at least some training as sailors. War-mages are prevalent amongst the Carthaginian Navy due to great advantages they offer in combat upon the sea. The region is highly civilized since it consists almost entirely of cities and towns along the Mediterranean with very little inward expansion inland outside of a few regions. Druids and Rangers are virtually non existent in the region due to this factor and the harsh conditions of the desert. Traveling through the region one would doubtless hear tales of druids living in the deep desert, performing bizarre and wicked rituals, but there is nothing to substantiate these claims.

Having been founded by the Phoenicians, conquered by the Romans, the Vandals, and the Byzantines, Carthage is a highly diverse country with some interesting quirks. An example of one of these quirks would be that despite hating the Vandals for conquering them, the people take pride in the fact that it was the Vandal Empire which sacked the great city of Rome. The people of Carthage lack their own distinct language and speak a Latin dialect, typically referred to as either Carthaginian Latin or just Carthaginian. It is quite distinct from normal Latin, having many strange accents and foreign words interjected as a result of so much foreign rule. Similarly Carthage lacks their own unique pantheon. Instead they worship most of the classical Mediterranean gods from the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian pantheons.

Egypt

Egypt has one of the longest and richest recorded histories of any country, extending back almost 10,000 years. Beginning as a small farming community on the banks of the Nile, Egypt eventually evolved into a unified kingdom over the course of about 5,000 years. It is also during this period leading up to the kingdom’s unification that magic first began to make its appearance in the world. Where exactly these arcane and divine powers came from remains a mystery to this day. Both the Egyptians and Greeks credited the god Thoth for being the progenitor of magic, but others claim that the secret came from a traveler who was fleeing a now forgotten empire to the East. What is known is that the Egyptians were the first to take advantage of these powers on a large scale. It wasn’t long before the temples were filled with adepts who could manifest the divine powers of their gods, while sorcerers and wizards began cropping up all across the country. This gave the Egyptians a clear advantage over the rest of the world and Egypt became the leading world power around 2000 BC.

The secret to magic could only be kept for long however. While there were those who left Egypt to travel the world and who brought with them what they knew of the magical arts it was because of the Jew named Moses that magic became practiced all over the world. While a child in the court of Seti I, Moses was taught the basics of divine magic in a hopes he would go on to serve as his stepbrother’s High Priest. When he fled to Mount Sinai, Moses was able to commune with a new god calling himself Yahweh, although there are those who believe that Yahweh is the same deity as Aten and that he used Moses to get revenge on the traditional Egyptian deities. Either way, Yahweh imparted upon Moses the knowledge and abilities he would need to free his fellow Jews. After their escape the Jews began a period where they lived as nomads and everywhere they traveled the use of magic became common practice.

It is in this way that Persia eventually learned the secret and with their own pantheon of gods and elite force of wizards were able to conquer the mighty Egyptian empire in 343 BC. Their rule however, did not last long as the Greeks were poised to conquer the known world under the leadership of Alexander the Great. When Alexander swept into Egypt 10 years after the Persian conquest he was hailed as a liberator. It was at this time when construction of Alexandria was begun, which would become a repository for the texts of the ancient world, many of which pertained to the Great Art of magic. After the death of Alexander Egypt has been passed between Rome, the Byzantine Empire, the Caliphate, and presently it is under the control of the Mamluks.

Due to it’s long and noble history the people of Egypt are often seen as a proud lot. However, live under the Egyptian sun has also made them a hardy people. With the long tradition of magic in Egypt it is not rare to find wizards, clerics, and even the occasional mystic who still worships the old gods. The city of Alexandria in particular boasts a large number of magic-users, many of whom are foreign, despite the destruction of the Great Library. Since the Mamluks took over a greater emphasis has been placed on military service and as such the number of warriors are also increasing throughout the country.

The Caliphate

The Caliphate is a true Holy Empire. Six hundred years ago the Prophet Mohammed received a vision from the Arch Angel Gabriel and the religion of Islam was born. During his life Mohammed served not only as a religious leader, but also as a political and military leader. And so with the birth of this faith there also was the birth of the Caliphate. Mohammed united the feuding Arab tribes into a mighty army which exploded outwards across the land. The Caliphate expanded at rate without precedent in all directions. First the entire Arabian Peninsula was brought under its rule. Then it expanded north into Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. It then expanded West; conquering Israel and with it the holy city of Jerusalem, as well as the Sinai Peninsula and large parts of Egypt. In the east it pushed into Mesopotamia, driving out the Persians who had been there since time immemorial. If the pace of expansion could be kept up, the Caliphate would rule the known world in hardly any time at all. However internal conflicts would cause this rate of expansion to decline and even reverse some.

After the Prophet Mohammed had died, there was some debate as to who would rule next. One group suggested that the successor should be the most appropriate candidate from within Mohammed’s own family, his cousin and son-in-law Ali. The opposing group suggested that the successor be the most devout Muslim, elected by Muslims or their representatives. Eventually they decided to choose to elect the Caliph, but not all were happy with this decision. After several rather short lived Caliphs which were elected, it eventually came to be a hereditary title, not possessed by the family of Mohammed. Needless to say this did not make everyone happy.

It was during this turbulent political time that the expansion of the Caliphate was at its height. The expansion stopped when a new faction began to rise inside the Caliphate, seeking the title of Caliph for itself. The civil war was brief, but harsh. The Caliphate lost some of the land it had conquered including some territory in Mesopotamia and most notably Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula. When the war was over the new faction had won. The newly appointed Caliph was able to trace his lineage back to the family of Mohammed and so was largely accepted.

Under this new leadership the Caliphate under took a series of internal reforms. Taxes were lowered, although admittedly less so for non-Muslims, and restrictions against Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians were loosened. This helped to convert many new followers to Islam. It was observed that Islam was even gaining followers in other countries, most notably in Persia, and that this was undermining the strength of the Persian Empire. Because of this revelation expansion in all directions except north ceased. Proselytizing would expand the Caliphate into Persia and Egypt; it was only Byzantium in which proselytizing was having a minimal effect. So the Caliphate pushed northward into Byzantium, successfully capturing about half of Anatolia. It was then that logistics slowed the expansion of the Caliphate. It is probable that if the Caliphate could fight any one of its three neighbors; Byzantium, Egypt, or Persia; in a one on one battle that they would win. However to fight any one power would invoke attack from one or both of the remaining powers. So at present the borders of the Caliphate are at a stand still.

The capital of the Caliphate is located in Damascus. Other important cities are the holy three, Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is important not only in Islam, but also in Judaism and Christianity as well, and as such is a rather diverse city. Islam is the religion of the Caliphate, but some other religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism; are tolerated (and taxed). “Pagan” faiths are rather harshly treated, and not protected under the law.

The Caliphate is famous for its horsemen and the ferocity of its fighters. Intellectually it has been highly influenced by the Persian tradition, and as such has many wizards as well. However unlike in Persia, the Caliphate has diverse enough terrain that some regions are still somewhat feral, making sorcerers and mystics more prevalent. One thing common amongst all adventurers from the region is that they are all masters of survival and navigation in the wilderness. If one cannot find food and water in the desert then one is unlikely to last long as an adventurer in the region. Additionally to get lost in the desert is as sure a way to die as slitting ones own throat.

The Blistering South

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