|The Heart of the Amalgam|
|Iothe Assembly; Aigeus Mesophus|
Iothe is the capital city of the Cernos Amalgam, and the seat of the Assembly. It is settled upon the bones of an ancient Asrai'i fort from the Radiant Era, the location of the first victory of what would be the plainsmen's final rebellion. It served as the base of operations from which the people of southern Echon would drive out the Asrai'i colonists, and was the natural choice when it came time for the budding nation of Cernos to select a seat for its power. Known as a city of scholars and politicians, Iothe produces little in the way of trade or goods, but exists in a pivotal location for the transportation of goods between the coasts, and from north to south.
Iothe lies in the most forgiving region of the Cernosan landscape, in the midst of verdant hills. Its position beside Lake Stalius ensures that its winters are warm and summers are cool, and it is not so wracked with rampant disasters like wildfires and tornadoes that seem so common among the rest of the country. The city rarely sees snow, but occasionally vacillates between drought seasons and flood seasons. Weather may change drastically over the course of a day, with temperatures dropping significantly at night beneath the wide Cernosan sky.
The Heart of Cernos rests where it would most naturally, caught between the winding knolls of the northern grasslands and the far-flung central plains. It is an inland city, protected from nautical assault but not totally cut off from the sea. It is nestled along the southern shore of Lake Stalius, an inland sea named for the fabled king of horses, and notable for its iconic crescent or hoof-print shape. This body of water guards the northern edge of the city.
The city itself is highly structured in its design, taking a roughly octagonal shape, with a vast network of roads stretching both within and without the city walls. A number of walls surround the city, some crumbling to time or still in the process of being constructed around a perimeter that only grows from year to year. However, the city is, for the most part, divided into main sections, with an outer wall protecting the majority of the city where one would find homes and businesses, and an inner wall within it, built around the major political buildings and public areas.
With the city being surrounded by water to the north, its three main gates lie to the south, but there are a total of eleven gates in all spaced along its outer wall, and more to be found on the inner wall. Given the shape of the city, these gates are positioned specifically to make travel from one side of the city to the other more efficient by allowing pedestrians to cut through the central political district, rather than forcing them to take the ring road through the outer district.
some things happened & now we're here
The Iothan Assembly
Iothe operates as a representative democracy, and it's government system is the model after which the the national Cernosan Assembly was fashioned. It consists of a council of x-number officials, elected by the capital's citizens, and generally consisting of those with high social standing or political pull among a specific groups of Iothans. These x-number officials also serve as Iothe's delegation of Praktori to the Cernosan Assembly.
Terms for these officials are four years, and elections are held on a rotating yearly basis, so that one quarter of the x-number seats on the assembly are up for election each year. As such, one can find hopefuls are incumbents alike posturing, campaigning, and generally jockeying for the favor of citizens at all times during the year, filling the streets and squares of the city, for as soon as one election season ends, another is right on its heels.
Due to the nature of the elections, wherein those who are the loudest and most insistent tend to be the most successful, the Iothan assembly is said to be little more than a grand-scale pissing contest between its members. Meetings more often than not dissolve into a lot of shouting and pounding; so, any meaningful progress must be made behind the scenes, in deals and agreements made between individuals and political factions outside of the assembly grounds. Most officials are backed by outside groups and lobbyists who used their resources to propel their candidate into his position, and are therefore beholden to one faction or another. Those who were elected based solely off their the respect they've acquired among the Iothan citizens tend to stay longer in office, however. One such individual is Aigeus Mesophus, who serves as Megas Praktor in the Cernosan Assembly and has been for nearly twenty years.
It is the assembly's role to determine the polis's finances, such as tax rates and delineation of funds, policy regarding slavery, city planning, and generally managing and adjusting the deployment of assets and resources.
Settled in the heart of the region, Iothe has little access to foreign trade and instead relies heavily on the roads and routes branching out to other cities under the Amalgam. Prices for goods in the capital tend to be higher than they are elsewhere, due not only to the cost of transporting them but also to account for the higher taxes of the city. However, Iothe does sport an active labor and intellectual economy to make up for their lacking mercantile endeavors. The majority of Assembly-issued construction work, such as the erection of monuments or laying of roads, is contracted to companies out of Iothe. Most advanced learning, as well, takes place in Iothe through the local sophists, and most anyone with significant political aims comes through the city to be educated in this way.
Most shops are owned by citizens and staffed by slaves, and indeed the wheel of the local economy is spun by slaves, allowing citizens to engage in more cerebral pursuits. As such, Iothe boasts a relatively weak economy in comparison to other major cities around the globe. Iothan ideals leave capitalistic pursuits as a secondary ambition, instead emphasizing political and intellectual advancement over monetary gain. This has left the rivaling city of Miltocratos to fill the economic void with their production prowess and efficiency, allowing them to challenge Iothe's position as the capital of the Cernos Amalgam after so many centuries.
Iothan society serves as the cultural model for the Amalgam; it is from the capital that new trends are spread, ranging from philosophy to fashion. As the center of the nation, Iothe and Iopolis are the most widely visited locations in the Amalgam, though mostly by other Cernosans rather than foreigners. It serves as host to a number of festivals throughout the year, and there is always an event of some kind to be found an any given day. The city bustles with life, and the political lobbyists and philosophers yelling from their podiums on street corners ensures that quiet remains a rare commodity.
The people of Iothe, like much of the nation, are more concerned with efficiency than etiquette. Foreigners will often take the Iothans' tendency to skip pleasantries and probe with too-personal questions quite rude. To the locals, however, other nations' preoccupation with stratified social norms is all too reminiscent of the barbaric ways of the Asrai. In Iothe, there is no concept of speaking to one's "betters" -- they are keen to holler at and criticize anyone, regardless of class or creed. Even slaves are known to talk back without repercussion, so long as they can handle the verbal dance. Honesty is a highly valued and respected trait, and this is reflected in a number of ways through their culture.
Religion, on the whole, does not play a significant role in Iothan society, partly because it is something of a cultural melting pot and partially because no one god or religion played a major role in the founding of the nation. In Iothe and in a number of other places across Cernos, there is exists a prevailing attitude of independence even from the gods, because it was through the strength and will of the people alone that they won back their homeland from the Radiant Empire. That being said, major religious factions do exist in Cernos, with two in particular played significant roles in the political life of Iothe.
First, the Nureum, while not exclusive to Iothe, is an institution which began in the capital. Each polis is required to be maintain a Nureum for membership in the Amalgam. They function as temples to the goddess Nurei, the spiritual successor of the goddess Jazaria who once protected the lands and shepherded the people of the region. It was through her that the once-slaves of southern Echon rose up to seek justice against their Asrai masters, and she has remained a preeminent presence in the region. These temples to her also function as the seats of the court system across Cernos.
Second, Aradon is worshiped as the embodiment of the virtues necessary for the city and the nation to function soundly. The politicians of Iothe look to him for guidance, or at least claim to, though there is some measure of irony in this, considering that they especially are notorious for their hyper-competitive and sometimes underhanded dealings in the political arena. The coliseum where the Assembly gathers is named the Aradeum, and also serves as a temple to the god.
Various other temples are scattered throughout the capital, possibly one for every god, if one has the mind to look hard enough. Any worship of the Dragon Gods, however, is forbidden by law.
Sprawling across the open plains around Lake Stalius, there is thought to be little reason for the city to remain condensed in a defined area in way other cities are. There is nothing to constrain its growth, and little reason to build up when one can build out. As a result, the buildings of Cernos tend to be vast, one-story things, and from a distance one can see the numerous layers of city walls over them, like the rings of a tree. They have sprung up around the city at various points in its history, only to be outgrown a short while later. The only buildings which stand out above the rest are those of political and religious significant, such as the Aradeum and Nureum; the tallest of them is the tower that serves as the citizenship office, a massive spire of a construction that had built of many stories in order to house all its accumulated documents and records over the centuries before one architect had to wisdom to propose they build down into the earth rather than up any more.
Public buildings are constructed with marble from the Amalgam's quarries along the foothills of Amun Thor, usually rectangular in layout and decorated with columns and detailed relief of historical scenes. Private buildings attempt to mimic the same design, though few Iothans possess the wealthy necessary to use the same resources, and most simply use stone. Buildings and homes closer to the center of the city are more likely to have had a second story built on to them as families or businesses expanded and the city expanded around them as well.
Exteriors are clean and uniform, with sharp edges and little color aside from the natural variances in the marble and stone. Interiors, however, are very much influenced by personal taste, with some sporting meticulously assembled mosaics on ceilings, gold filigree and scrolling designed, or lavish carpets and drapery, while others remain as stark as the their exterior. However, they tend to share the common theme of being wide, almost cavernous, with plenty of empty space.
Fashion in general across Cernos is noted for being exceedingly plain, particularly in comparison to their Amarantine rivals to the north, and this is due largely in part to the cultural influence of Iothe and the pressure it exerts on the rest of the Amalgam. The popular philosophical literature from the capital has, over time, come to the conclusion that plainer dress is best, since it conveys a sense of honesty and virtue. The color white, especially, is touted as being the heraldry of a man of clean mind and body. Since white cloth will inevitably show any evidence of the individual's activities over a the course of a given day, donning it is said to imply that he or she has nothing to hide.
This is the sort of lofty idea that alienates the urban scholars from the working classes. Laborers are better served by darker clothes which show less dirt and are more durable over the course of a days work, and there remain a fair number of Cernosans who prefer this rather than subscribing to the modern notions, especially considering that keeping white clothes costs more money as one is forced to routinely replace soiled clothes. The tendency of the poor and slaves to wear darker clothes out of necessity subtly helps to reinforce the narrative that they are less virtuous or trustworthy than the rest of the population. The popularity of white cloth has grown to be pervasive and is the most easily recognized staple of Iothan fashion.
However, referring to the clothing choices found in the city as "fashion" may be something of a stretch. Stylistic leanings have changed very little over the history of the capital. There is little frivolity to their dress, and little distinction to be found between men's and women's clothes. Anyone who is expected to, at the very least, be able to ride a horse -- regardless of the chances of them actually doing so over the course of their day -- will wear trousers. Those who work primarily indoors, however, may swathe themselves in trappings that fall to or near the floor, so that their pants are generally not visible, while those who work primarily indoors will don clothes that may be loose and somewhat flowing in their own right, but allow for greater range of movement and typically fall no lower than the knees.
Wool is the most common material found within the city itself, with it being one of the mildest locations in the region. Cotton is also common, as it is throughout the nation and the world.
Sandals are the most popular form of footwear in the city, with close-toed shoes being reserved only for rainy seasons or extended trips through the countryside. Headwear is rare, but not unheard of.
Men are generally clean-shaven and keep their hair short, while women keep their hair long. Dark hair is especially desirable, and in order to avoid any accusations of having Asrai ancestry, those with lighter hair will often dye it darker. In particularly conservative circles, women may weave golden locks cut from Asrai into their own hair as a display of domination or superiority.
Within the mundane nature of Iothan style, individuality is expresses most readily in accessories and jewelry. A wealthy individual will advertise their standing not with ostentatious color or outlandish styles, but with a silken belt and high-quality gold bands. All citizens are expected to wear the Iothan vambrace on their arm, and it is common among the more wealthy to pair it with a pure gold or silver replica of the symbol on their other arm as well.
Ever a city of politicians, Iothan fashion relies heavily on a sense of restraint and subtlety.
Magic use has yet to be made technically illegal, or have legal impositions made upon it, but known mages are not seen as very trustworthy. Hearkening to the use of magic by the Radiant Empire's colonizers, philosophers and politicians will cite the corrupting nature of magic's influence, and its inherent destructiveness; in general, magic is treated like a sort of drug, a tool which may be helpful in the hands of a responsible individual, but is more often than not going to be used irresponsibly. Artificed and enchanted technology may be found peppered throughout the city, though certainly not to the degree that one would find in Misthaven or Vael Amaran.
pretty tame on treatment, most are used by businesses or political organizations, or households. it is illegal to use horses for labor within iopolis, so slaves are important for farming, construction, and even transportation.
Iothe has set the example for how the government expects Asrai to be treated in the Amalgam. The Iothan Alienage is tucked away in a corner of the city, away from the bulk of businesses or the homes of more upstanding members of Iothan society, despite the fact that many of the Asrai that live there must make the trek to and from such places daily for their work as servants. The Alienage is a cramped space, and as such has the highest concentration of multi-story buildings as one will find in a far-flung plains city. The walls around the district are build especially high to accommodate this, and it is often said that the city spends more money protecting citizens against the Alienage than it does protecting the Alienage.
It is the most rigidly guarded district in the city, though there are no guards to be found within its walls. Rather, the troop of guards stationed at its only gate thoroughly vet -- and sometimes harass -- anyone going to and from the district, and at the first sign of riot or plague from within the Alienage, the district is locked down and quarantined until the threat is believed to have passed. While one can, for the most part, travel freely between any other parts of the city, it is difficult to slip into or out of the Alienage unnoticed, and word of any non-Asrai entering the district is sure to make its way around, followed by a generally unsavory reputation.
The Alienage is a hotbed of crime and disease, its thatched-roofed and mud-walled structures little more than dilapidated health risks, which is par for the course as far as Alienages in Cernos go. However, the Iothan Alienage has been taken one step further in its typical cruelty by having banners and cloth stretched between its high walls, forming a makeshift roof over the small district and blocking out much of the direct sunlight from reaching their homes, and in doing so denying its inhabitant whatever comfort they may have otherwise found under Seras's gaze.
Though the Iothan Alienage is often compared to a prison, it remains the one place in the city where Asrai can avoid torment at the hands of their Cernosan oppressors. It is one of the only places they are permitted to mingle freely with their own kind and worship as they please, without incurring the suspicions of onlookers, though the Alienage is, of course, always going to be the subject of suspicion in general.