The Seraph of Man
The Altarian Empire is now over 2000 years old. Originally it grew from a kingdom of Human settlers based in the fertile flood plains of the Altair River. After absorbing all the tribes and principalities from Drudir to Mt Din. Altair faced off against a behemoth, the elven kingdom of Maralia. The Maralian Elves were in a period of severe decline and decadence, but still held all the lands from modern Kildair to Holk and Sahassa except for what Altair had carved out. They had a myriad of races under their dominion but in the north, nearest the homelands of the Altarians, they were at their strongest and most secure. While their leadership had seen short lived king after short lived king, and civil war after civil war, the empire remained strong because of its control of the Masonwood Forest which made its fleets both innumerable and nearly invincible.
After a century of war and strife, the Altarian Empire had wrested all the southern lands from the Maralians but the elven capitol at Sylos and its subsidiaries held strong against the armies of Altair. Fortunately, soon Maralia came to be ruled by Surat of Kuldan, a vicious usurper with no real claim to the throne. He embarked on a disastrous military campaign against Sirk whilst he ordered the construction of a massive palace for himself (tearing down the ancient Sylia Caramond in order to do so). After a number of brilliant campaigns by the Altairian General Lucius Equitius Domitus, the Altairian Military stood at the city gates in the 303rd year of the Empire. Which were subsequently thrown wide open to the conquerors as the citizens rose in open revolt against the tyrant. In an act of mercy, Lucius forbade the looting of the city but did systematically dismantle and cart off the treasures of and thoroughly burn the newly build Palace of Surat. Without their capitol or a king or the Masonwood Forest, the rest of the Maralian Empire fell quickly.
After 350 years, the entire continent (previously called Galua) was under the dominion of the Altairian Empire. At the height of their power in 1100, the Empire controlled: Altair, Agmir Islands, Dhakar, Ursiria, Kaldoria, Southeast and Northern Chagail.
The decline began in 1300 and proceeded slowly. Kaldoria and Northern Chagail falling away first. Ursiria broke apart piecemeal into the little kingdoms and clans that had ever existed there. Southeastern Chagail broke away when the defeated emperor of the Juric Civil War took that land and held it against assaults from the newly christened emperor.
Recently, though, the empire's fortunes have somewhat reversed. The current rulers, the Modian Dynasty, have returned a number of cities to Altairian control including: Perta, Bara, and Tura in the past 40 years.
Most of the art and architecture of the Altairian Empire stems from the decadent period during their fall. Even so, the influx of brilliant minds, and innovative artists from all corners of the continents has not yet worn off and the sons and grandsons of past masters still make fantastic works of art.
The architecture of the Empire is highly variable and generally utilizes local materials in the most powerful and efficient manner to build their structures. "Classic" architectural forms resemble,
The population of Altair is notably lopsided when compared with other nations. The huge cities and enormous urban populations are a product of Altair's long role as the dominant power in trade and agricultural production.
Family and family status are drastically important. People who become residents are ceremonially adopted by one traditional clan or another so that the individual might be offered legitimacy in the eyes of merchants, officials, and military units.
Families are also heavily involved with trade and business and have been since the beginning of the Empire. However, now they are not the only force in the business world. They compete with the newly created Companies for shares of trade. Many wealthy families resent the Modian Emperors for supporting the Companies in an effort to revive trade.
Markets house out of town and foreign merchants, but there is also a vibrant local merchant community in most cities with their shops set up in the lowest floors of Insulae or in the corners of houses, rented out for that purpose.
Most commoners eat wheat or oat bread, supplemented by mutton, beef, or venison in forested areas. Vegetables and fruits are highly regionalized and seasonal.
Education has been recently opened to all citizens through the family system.
Since the resuscitation of the Empire's fortunes by the recent line of Emperors, there has been a flowering of the arts, sciences, and trade unlike any seen since the high times of the middle Empire. Libraries have become commonplace. Hospitals, set up by various religious groups, have become common sights in larger cities. New advances in machinery, optics, and construction promise a new age for Altair.
Most of the official worship in the Altairian Empire is wrapped up in the Cult of the Deified Emperor and the worship of prominent ancestors in one's family.