Methone was one of the major poleis of the Athenian Hegemony. What follows is a description of the polis of Methone as it looked in the early days of the 25th century of the Athenian calendar. The author seems to be someone who knows a lot about the inner workings of Methone and some have suggested that it could be Herasmus, the personal secretary to King Telemachos himself, though no finite proof of this has been produced.
I am not an Athenian or a Methonian, but a citizen of the world.
- From King Telemachos' inauguration speech 2395 AC
Methone - Cradle of Heroes
The year is 2404 Athenian Calendar. In Methone it is the tenth year of the rule of King Telemachos, son of King Diokles and Queen Tryphosa. Though the poleis has not been stronger since the before the Sakalid War its resources are stretched incredibly thin. Dozens of colonies, many minor holdings, direct dependents, eight larger vassal poleis and the burden of occupying the traitor state of Gortyna for more than six decades have put a strain on both the armed forces and the diplomatic forces of Methone. It is a vast empire in anything but name, and as with all great empires it is constantly threatened both from within and without.
The most obvious threat is from Zarax, Methone's eternal enemy. Virtually equal in power and influence the two monarchies are poised on the brink of conflict and everybody knows it. But also less obvious and more internal threats abound. The King is still unmarried and has no heir, ambitious strategoi and politicians are vying for power, with little concern for those who get in their way, and in the colonies barbarians and governors gone rogue threaten to upset the balance.
It is a time of tension, but also of opportunities. It is a time where being at the right place at the right time can mean the difference between glory and ruin.
Methone - The Polis
Population: 5.5 million Athenians, 1.5 million barbarians & slaves.
The city itself is an architectural mixture of a centuries old core and ring upon ring of younger and more modern buildings. Like almost all Athenian poleis it has a central acropolis, which is the highest lying portion of the city, with the royal compound taking up most of it, and below it is the rest of the old city.
The single most impressive feature of the newer parts of the city is the almost 30 kilometers long pathway that leads to the cosmoport. Half-bridge, half dam this was constructed to ease the flow of passengers and light goods to and from the cosmoport, while keeping out of the way of the heavier transports of necessary products that are still being transported by boats or barges.
The Cosmoport itself also deserves a mention. It is an immense semi-artificial island, much of it made up of floating units that are anchored to the seafloor, acting as individual piers and docking bays. Most of the landing of space crafts take place in water, as a safety precaution, and even if an accident happens, it usually only requires the refitting of a new pier-unit.
While there are a handful of small private landing areas closer to the city proper these are very restricted and only small crafts are allowed, due to the risk of collisions and damages to the city. As an added precaution all buildings in the royal compound are laced with Aegis shields much in the same way as space crafts and thus protected against virtually anything with less mass than a small mountain.
The streets are narrow, even in the more recently added parts of the city, since motorized transportation is non-existing, but there are plenty of open squares, markets, green areas and parks, to make the city feel less crammed. The use of fire-resistant materials in most buildings and the use of Helios packs for heating and light have made it possible to build this way without too much danger. The city has only suffered a few conflagrations in its history and of those only one was not caused by an attacking army. This, and the fact that most businesses are also the homes of the business owners make the population density of Methone very high.
Methone lies in a sub-tropical climate, with summers getting very hot, and winters rarely reaching freezing. The nearby Parnassus Mountains give cover from some of the colder continental winds and foehn-winds are not uncommon, especially in wintertime. In the heat of the summer much of the life in Methone takes place on the roof-tops and terraces late at night, and the day-time is spent either in the huge public pools or at the sea side. There are a couple of very nice beaches only a few miles north of Methone, which are kept as recreational areas, free of fishermen or other enterprises. Precipitation, when it comes, is usually brought by western or southern winds. Southern winds can bring torrential rainfall during the early spring, but this is not particularly common.
One very particular feature of Methone is that there is no river running directly through it, and there are only a few natural sources of fresh water under the city (the most important being the King's Spring on the acropolis), nowhere near enough for the needs of the millions of people living in the city. Contrary to what you would think, this has actually been an advantage, rather than a problem. Early in its history the city's architects and engineers had to make a stable water supply and sewage system. Aqueducts from the Parnassus Mountains and the nearby Panormos River provide the fresh water, and huge sewers lead the city's filth into a swampy area twenty five kilometers south of the walls. The sewers are constantly being enlarged and repaired, and each year several hundred slaves and workers get lost or drown in the endless tunnels. The city has a few saltwater canals, making it possible for barges to deliver daily supplies in large quantities into hard to reach parts of the city.
Entertainment is very important to the average Methone citizen and is mostly provided by the five huge open amphitheaters each capable of holding more than fifty thousand people, the eight hippodromes where there are nightly races, six huge sports stadiums, and in addition hundreds of smaller theaters, sports arenas and private racing tracks. Sailing competitions are also popular in Methone, and the new pathway to the Cosmoport makes it possible to have an audience very close to the boats, increasing the popularity even further. Gambling, prostitution and alcohol is largely controlled by either the temples (mostly Dionysus, Aphrodite and Hermes, but others as well), or by the government. These are not considered vices, as in some barbarian cultures and are an essential part of the city's economy.
Organized crime in Methone is mostly focused on theft and smuggling, though extortion, counterfeiting and fraud is also common. There are at least a handful of true crime lords controlling most of the petty criminals in the polis. More often than not the neighborhood Archons (i.e. district mayors) leave the crime bosses alone as long as they keep things civil.
He who is afraid of battle has already lost the war, but he who does not fear war is a fool, and fools do not win battles.
- from Tactica by Kelvos of Corinth 796 AC
King Telemachos of Methone rules a huge realm comprised of several hundred million people. True, most are barbarians in the colonies, but Methone and its direct dependent areas still has a population of more than twenty million all told. To keep these areas under control Methone has several permanent armies. These are under the day-to-day control of Polemarchos Cleomenes, who is the highest ranking officer in the army and only takes orders from the King himself.
Permanent Armies on Athens
Army of the Acropolis
This is a special army in many ways. Serving mainly as security forces for the King, these phalanxes are the only military forces allowed onto the acropolis and within the royal compound. Also there are no auxiliaries, barbarian or otherwise, supporting this army. "The Royal Guard" - made up of the best 300 hoplites in Methone, this is the personal bodyguard of the King, one hundred per cent loyal and constantly trained at secret training facilities. "The Honor Guard" - made up of 9 phalanxes, specially selected for their deeds and bravery on the battlefield. Each phalanx serves 6 years in the Honor guard and is then replaced by a new phalanx. This ensures that the Honor Guard is always made up of battle hardened hoplites.
Army of Panormos
This army is primarily kept as a reserve strike force. It has enough transports to be able to land more than 10,000 men anywhere on Athens within a day. The barbarian auxiliaries also often work as a mobile police force that hunt down bandits, escaped slaves or crush minor rebellions. The commander of the Panormos army is Strategos Iagos, a legendary commander from the Sakalid War and second in command should something happen to Polemarchos Cleomenes. Their resources include 50 phalanxes, 30,000 auxiliaries (large portion of which is cavalry), and 135 Icharos and Daidalos shuttles with pilots and support crews.
Army of the Pillars
This army has the responsibility of manning the Pillars of Atlas, a series of interconnected sea fortresses that guard the entrance to the Gulf of Methone. The strategic importance of the Pillars has been diminished since the advent of Space flight, but it is still a strongpoint in the battle against piracy up and down the Peleponnesos coast.
The commander of this army is a young Strategos by the name of Kallias. He has repeatedly proven himself fighting in the colonies and is quite aggressive in his hunt for pirates and smugglers. 40 phalanxes 25 000 auxiliaries (many marine or naval specialists) 125 Triremes and many more support vessels, crewed by several hundred sailors.
Army of Lake Aegis
This army is mainly concerned with training phalanxes and auxiliaries (to a lesser degree) for service in the colonies. It is also common for newly formed phalanxes to get beaten into shape by the excellent hoplomachoi that have made this their specialty. The auxiliaries are deliberately very diverse as they are often representing all sorts of fighting styles and opponents. The commander of this army is Strategos Nikolaos, a cousin of King Telemachos. Their resources include 65 phalanxes and 19,000 auxiliaries.
Chiliarches Titos has the overall control of the barbarian police forces stationed within the walls of Methone. In all, more than 20,000 barbarian mercenaries are stationed to police the city streets. They are deliberately of mixed origins and no single barbarian culture makes up more than 1/6th of the entire force. In case of war these forces may be equipped with heavier armor and weapons, but only for a short period of time. There are no "detective" units or any other investigative function to the police. Such things are done by appointed officials on an ad hoc basis, aided in difficult cases by some very specialized Logicians. Administration of this force as well as registration of minor offences, known criminals, etc, is handled by a handful of Logicians aided by a few hundred slaves.
Occupation Army of Gortyna
This army was originally meant to be temporary until the Alliance of Athenians formed during the Sakalid War decided what to do with it. Unfortunately the alliance has ceased to exist in any useful form, and as a result Methone is stuck as occupier of the polis. This is costing not only huge amounts of resources, but also many lives as the Gortyna resistance movement slowly grows. Some of the toughest and most uncompromising phalanxes are stationed here. The commander of the Gortyna army holds the grand title of Polemarchos as compensation for the fact that more than thirty commanders have been killed by rebels over the last generation. The current Polemarchos of Gortyna is Arsenios, a cruel and inept man, who was greedy enough to go for the impressive title despite the obvious danger. Their resources include 64 Phalanxes and 20,000 auxiliaries.
In addition to these permanent armies, there are about 200 other phalanxes scattered over the territory directly under control of Methone. These are usually stationed at strategic or tactically important locations, such as fortifications, or in areas particularly subject to trouble, such as mines with large numbers of slaves. These phalanxes are often supported by some barbarian auxiliaries, but there is no fixed number on these forces.
Politics and the Court
Methone is a monarchy with a hereditary king. Elections are held only when a dynasty dies out in a direct line - i.e. uncles and cousins are not in line to the crown. Since the present king has yet to produce an heir, this rule might become important soon again.
The king does not rule unaided. The Royal Council consists of at least three members, selected by the king himself. There is no maximum to the number of councilors, though it is rare for a king to have more than a dozen or so. Members of the council are immune to the king's justice, and cannot be punished directly, though he can throw them out of the council and exile them. The only way for a member of the court to be subject to the king's justice would be for the entire council to vote for his exclusion.
In addition to the council there is a huge bureaucracy in place to manage the day-to-day running of Methone and its colonies. Ministers are appointed directly by the king, supposedly purely on their merits and abilities, but traditionally it is all but impossible to be appointed unless you are from a noble family.
The court of Methone is a little city in itself. Many people at the court are there more or less against their will, including sons and daughters of barbarian chieftains, governors' families, and even sons and daughters of troublesome vassals. So security is tough both for those coming in and going out. Still it is common for noble or wealthy families to try to get their sons and daughters positioned to be invited to the court. Such invitations are a sure sign of a family's status. Intrigues abound, and even if it is not nearly as murderous as in many other courts on Athens, it can still be dangerous enough for the unprepared.
The system of vassal poleis is really nothing more than an extension of the patronage system that is strong in many Athenian poleis, including Methone. But instead of individuals making binding deals, it is done between cities and nations. Interestingly enough such deals are considered to be made by the polis as an entity, so changing rulers, revolutions and other political changes do not automatically make the vassalages obsolete. Exceptions to this rule exist, naturally, but it is something that the major poleis are all in agreement on, despite their other differences, so vassals trying to "break the rules" have a hard time finding support. Vassalage is also a way for great poleis, such as Methone, to build a huge zone of influence without attracting the Curse of Kings.
The following poleis are legally and officially vassals of Methone in 2404 AC.
Population: 1.5 million Athenians; 1 million barbarians and slaves
This is a monarchy of some military importance, especially due to having a strong naval presence on the seas of Athens.
Population: 6.5 million Athenians; 2 million barbarians and slaves
This plutocracy has always been suffering from a lack of capable leaders throughout its history and as a result it has never risen to its true potential. Most Olynthians are resigned to simply making as much money as possible, rather than pursuing dreams of glory on behalf of their polis.
Population: 4 million Athenians; 1 million barbarians and slaves
A polis famous for its scientists and philosophers. The Leucratian democracy is in crisis at the moment, with no clear majority and dozens of factions.
Population: 1.5 million Athenians; 750,000 barbarians and slaves
An ancient polis, ruled by a failing royal dynasty that is increasingly relying on Methone to stay in power. The last really strong personality born in the present dynasty was Queen Tryphosa who is the mother of King Telemachos of Methone. Unfortunately she now lives in Methone several thousand miles away and can't help her incompetent younger brother rule (though rumor has it that she keeps trying by sending him daily letters explaining in detail what he should do).
Population: 1.5 million Athenians; 1 million barbarians and slaves
This remote polis used to be completely at the mercy of neighboring Ambracia and by extension Zarax (since Ambracia is a Zaraxian vassal). So when Methone offered an alliance the vote was not even close in this democracy.
Population: 350,000 Athenians; 400,000 barbarians and slaves
Ephesus is an oligarchy, and one of the most remote settlements on west coast of Peleponnesos. It is most famous for its mercenary phalanxes or ship crews of tough young men.
Population: 1 million Athenians; 350,000 barbarians and slaves
This democracy is the eternal enemy of Herakleia - a Zaraxian vassal. Aside from this rivalry, the polis is most famous for its fantastic architecture, in particular the City of the Gods.
Population: 750,000 Athenians; 300,000 barbarians and slaves
Only recently did the oligarchs of Sigeum decide to become a vassal state of Methone, mainly in order to gain favorable trade agreements. The general population is not happy about this, preferring independence. It is located on the remote southern island of Psara and has a harsh climate.
Population: 1.25 million Athenians; 200,000 barbarians and slaves
In addition to the true vassal poleis, Methone is also stuck with the traitor state of Gortyna, and has been since the end of the Sakalid War thirty years ago. This polis and its citizens are suffering for the treachery of their ancestors more than a generation ago. Apathy is common among most inhabitants, but rebels seem to be gaining momentum.
The Colonies and The Governers
Methone has a strong presence on many colony gardens. Here is a quick summary of how the system of political and military control is constructed. It is basically the same in all poleis on Athens, with a few variations depending on the type of government a polis has. Most colonies work in the same manner as colonies have always worked: a small, ruling elite - made up of Athenians and handpicked local dignities - controls the cities, the mines and other important economic points, while the majority of the indigenous population lives more or less untouched in the country side. While the military might of the Athenians are always a latent threat against any wannabe rebel, the actual day to day control of the masses is upheld by local forces hired or controlled by the Athenians. The superiority of the Athenian culture is often enough to lure the ruling class of a given society into cooperation, and when it is not the might of Athenian weapons can be very persuasive. Often the children of local rulers are sent to Athens "to get an education", i.e. to guarantee the loyalty of their parents and to groom them into nice little marionettes. Funnily enough it is almost the same system that is used to keep the Athenian governors of the colonies from getting any clever ideas; they have to leave their family back home on Athens as security in order to get the job. Also the governors are never allowed to take mistresses from the local population - in order to avoid any unwanted complications and questionable loyalties. Clever rulers send professional hetaerae - companions - to keep the governor happy in the absence of his wife. It is not fool-proof, however, and rebellious governors are not unheard off. So as an additional limitation, governors are often appointed for a limited period of time. In Methone's case colonial governorships are for a period of six years.