Time on My Hands Chapter 38 - 334-343 CE: The Zoo

Time on My Hands
Chapter 38: 334-343 CE: The Zoo

They plans were adjusted so the 80 ships could sail in 10 ship fleets of colonists and supplies to leave at 1 week intervals. That would ease loading and unloading jams at both ends of the voyage. Each 10 ship fleet could do 2 voyages a year. Leaving Zarbam in mid-April the first 10 ship fleet would load and unload in 6 days conducting a 7 week resupply voyage. One of the July voyages would include the 5 yearly Bazram ships. The spring fleets would take 2100 colonists, 50 each from Mazbar and Zamrab with the rest from Barmaz. The July fleet would take 2050 colonists, 50 from Bazram and the rest from Barmaz.

Raben consolidated all marine aspects of Corvus Shipping in Zarbam. The harbor, running northeast from Berre-lEtang northeast was completed with 100 docking slips and 200 anchorages. A second harbor of equal size began at the village of Les Branches running southeast for 2 miles. The new warehouse area would be shared with the original warehouses. The harbor master was kept busy with the coming and going vessels. A logistics manager would handle the local arrangements to obtain the goods Ramzab needed. Letters between colonists and family left behind could be exchanged. The sailing time back and forth between Ramzab {Madeira} and Zamrab averaged 7 weeks. The palisade walls were in place. Living quarters were built as were warehouses and commercial. The permanent population of the busy port reached the target of 4000 people not including the Raven Raiders.

With the colony on Ramzab thriving, Raben now had time to return to his business enterprises. The Corvus Scriptoriums were booming. Alexandria was a seething roiling mess of competing Christian ideas and beliefs that often came to blows. At the same time in the deserts foothills west of Alexandria the Christian ascetics began forming Monasteries. These were men awaiting the return of Christ who felt Roman society was too debauched, the constant temptations too great to resist. In the solitude and deprivation of the desert they could, with undistracted praying, gain a purer soul and discover the deeper meanings of a good and clean life. The legalization of Christianity created a weird sort of nostalgia for the tradition of martyrdom where one would be purified by sacrificing your life for your faith. Without persecution one could not become a martyr in the traditional sense. An alternative was a withdrawal from corrupt living in towns and cities. The ascetics sold all material possessions and donated it to the poor. Many felt poisoned by the Church finding ways to work with the Roman state, seeing it as a compromise between ‘the things of God and the things of Caesar.’ The monastic communities were essentially an alternate Christian society since the hermits doubted that religion and politics could ever produce a truly Christian society. To them the only true Christian society was spiritual.

Raben did his best to live his Christian faith. He lived in and was part of the world and believed withdrawing was counterproductive. Since Jesus lived in the world and was part of the world, by avoiding life and temptation they were denying Christ. He believed one could live a good life and follow Christ’s teaching in the world. However, one also had to protect the weak and provide for the poor. Doing so for everyone was impossible. Even Jesus had said the poor would always be with you. The best you could do was to provide hope and security for as many as possible. The ascetics did nothing to help those in need, being too busy protecting their personal sanctity.

In 334, disgruntled Sarmatian commoners overthrew their leaders. Constantine led a campaign against the tribe winning a victory and extended his control over the region. Constantine resettled some Sarmatian exiles as farmers in Illyrian and Roman districts, and conscripted the rest into the army. In Rome, things were still changing. With Constantine moving the seat of government to Constantinople the bureaucracy moved too. The senate had lost all power outside the city and environs. Many senators relocated east to join the emperor. This created a power vacuum that was quickly snatched up and assumed by the Church and the Bishop of Rome. The power plays and games that had roiled the senate moved over to the ecclesiastical realms. On December 31, 335 the Bishop of Rome, Sylvester, died. By January 18, 336 Mark was elected Bishop of Rome. None of the bishops outside of the vicinity of Rome made the hasty convocation. Politics was most definitely at play.

For Raben that only reinforced his commitment to seeing that the Clan Corvo was safe. In Barmaz he did a lot of research in the archives to find ways of beefing security and self defense. By combining many inferences he came up with several ideas that required experimentation. Those at the Clan Corvo University did the experimentation. Turpentine was derived from the sap of pine trees. Sulfur was easily procured from volcanoes. Mixing powdered sulfur with turpentine produced a highly flammable liquid that was difficult to extinguish and produced choking toxic fumes.

Placing the solution in small ceramic balls sealed with oil soaked rags made ideal flaming bombs. The tail of the rag was ignited then the ball thrown. Upon striking an object, the ball would break and the flaming rag ignite the solution. These could be made in different sized balls, from four inch hand thrown bombs to twenty inch catapult launched bombs. In addition, special hollowed ballista bolts could be filled with the mixture and flaming rags attached, then shot at great distances with the shaft shattering upon impact. Catapults and ballistas were added to all Clan Corvo armories as well as turpentine/sulfur bombs. The ingredients and materials to make the bombs and bolts were kept separate but close so in times of need they could be assembled. The militia practiced with live bombs. Several people were assigned to conduct further research on improving the devices.

Raben had been searching for a place to set up an office of Corvus Scriptorium near Constantinople. His requirements were proximity with isolation, with easy ship access. In mid 335 he found Sivri Ada, a rectangular island 500 feet wide by 1000 feet long and 35 meters high located 9 miles south of Constantinople in the Sea of Marmara. The uninhabited island had no fresh water and limited vegetation. Channels could be cut around the high center mount of the rocky to funnel rain into a cistern. The eastern side had a small protected natural harbor. Corvus Scriptorium dispatched over 50 scribes and managers to establish the eastern office in a rented building until the island could be prepared. Several people from Corvus Construction headed east to oversee local contractors in building the cistern, apartments, warehouses and the scriptorium on the island. This location of Corvus Scriptorium would be known as Marzab. The construction took a year. By the time the island was occupied, the new local office of Corvus Scriptorium had established itself as fulfilling the legacy and respect due the world’s premiere scriptorium.

By 336 it became evident Ramzab {PD Maderia} needed a continuing steady supply of cement. They were using a tremendous amount in the Clan Corvo homeland to build roads, bridges, dams, irrigation projects, and defensive walls. Ramzab needed a steady supply of cement so the colony could proceed with the construction of dams and terrace walls. Currently they were purchasing the cement for all their needs. The cement was packaged and transported in heavy wooden barrels containing 4 cubic feet of cement powder with each sealed cask weighing 375 ponds. Raben decided it was time the Clan Corvo began producing their own cement. There was certainly enough limestone in the Clan Corvo territory. Limestone quarries were needed as well as a heat source for burning the limestone, a requisite step in processing the limestone into the lime powder that was cement. Using wood for the fires would certainly deplete the tree reserves.

There were no coal deposits in the original province of Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae. As soon as Raben secured the Allobroge addition, he dispatched student engineers to various Roman mines to learn all they could about minerals and discovering mineral deposits. Then he sent them out into the Allobroge territory looking for evidence of exploitable mineral deposits. They found coal, silver/lead, iron and even traces of gold flecked quartz. Raben checked their discoveries and set up another new business, Corvus Minerals to begin exploiting the discoveries.

Coal mines and limestone quarries were the priority. Iron mines were secondary priorities. The silver/lead and gold mines were tertiary. All three were promptly started but the resources devoted were done by their set priority.

The yearly delivery of colonists and supplies kept the fleet busy all spring and summer to keep the colony well supplied. With the steady influx of people they became more and more self sufficient and were quite grateful to the rest of the Clan Corvo for funding their expenses. The colony’s only export was the dried fish they loaded onto the supply ship fleets. The profit was never enough to pay for their needs but it was the only export they had. Someday they hoped to have grain and other foodstuffs to sell.

Raben was ready to begin another massive defense project with the intent to protect the expanded province of Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae. The defense walls along the Rhone and Lac Leman were progressing. All entre points into the province had also been shut off by forts. The borders had been surveyed and mapped and plans were moving forward to wall the entire province with defensive walls and long steep glacis like those around the Barmaz Bailiwick. Better than 95% of the population was Clan Corvo. The few people who were not members of the clan were heading towards marrying into the tight knit clan.

As Raben made his precautionary plans, the stability of Constantine’s rule was about to end. Just after Easter, Constantine fell seriously ill. He left Constantinople for the hot baths near the city of Helenopolis {PD Altinova}. Realizing he was dying he prayed in a church his mother built. Seeking purification, he became a catechumen, and attempted to return to Constantinople, making it only about 15 miles. Unable to continue he summoned the bishops. The emperor had hoped to be baptized in the Jordan River but knew that would never happen so he requested immediate baptism, promising to live a more Christian life should he live through his illness. Constantine died soon after on the last day of the fifty-day festival of Pentecost, 22 May 337, quite literally being baptized on his deathbed.

Although Constantine legalized and supported Christianity, he delayed being baptized until his end. Many thought he did so to avoid violating the tenants of the faith. Since baptism washed away one’s sins, by holding off as long as possible he was hedging his bets.

Constantine’s three sons, Constantius II, Constantine II and Constans, succeeded him. Constantius II buried his father then set about killing the male relatives of his grandfather except his brothers and three cousins. The trouble quickly began. Constantine had been keeping the various Christian factions peaceful. With his steadying hand gone, so was the peace.

Raben stayed out of the way in Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae. The Clan Corvo politically and religiously controlled and effectively populated the province. Since the Clan Corvo took over the provincial governorship twenty five years before, the changes in governance had been many. Those who had fled with the previous governor when Constantine passed through had not been allowed to return. Qualified people from the Clan Corvo filled all vacant positions. Raben had made it clear all job holders, including those from the Clan Crovo, would maintain their positions by merit only. The other change was one virtually unheard of in ancient (and sadly in much of modern) times, the elimination of the taking and giving bribes. The punishment for either was enslavement and confiscation of all possessions. Signs were posted at all government offices and military checkpoints proclaiming the edict. Unfortunately many business men ignored the notices and suffered an ignominious fate. Many businesses didn’t like that nor the fairly applied taxes and levies. Unable to break through the Clan hierarchy, many tried to abandoned the trade routes that passed through the province. However, the main Roman road, Via Domisia, from Italy to Gaul and Hispania passed through the Allobroge area. The Col de Montgenèvre {GM 44.940608, 6.754154} from Turin had to be used as there were no other overland routes that were open year round. Only smaller honest entrepreneurs used the other roads, finding the way well maintained and safe. One of the provincial militia’s primary duties was seek out, pursue and eliminate brigands and thieves.

Construction of defensive walls and glacis around the new boundaries of the expanded Clan Corvo was begun in earnest home. A 75° glacis was cut/excavated/built in front of each wall. Along streams/rivers the glacis was 30 feet high. All other glacis were made with a minimum of 30 feet but as close to 300 feet high as the terrain permitted. Covered arcades along the top of the walls under the battlements allowed easy year round movement without need to worry about the weather.

The boundary was adjusted to follow ridge lines and/or watershed divides and glaciers. Where streams passed through the walls the stream beds were widened and deepened. Cut stone blocks were laid to a depth of 6 feet were placed to form the streambed extending 20 feet beyond the 30 feet high glacis to guide the discharge to prevent undermining the stonework. The 75° built stone glacis was perforated by channels 8 inches wide by 2 feet high spaced 6 feet apart. Up to 2 additional channel layers could be added to accommodate the spring snow melt flow, with each level offset 2 feet to keep the glacis and wall as strong as possible. The stone construction of the glacis extended back forming the solid underpinning of the defense wall which was built atop it.

{I can be quite anal about details. Rather than bog down the story I’ve attached detailed description of the borders and defenses in the comments of this chapter.}

Once Raben had the massive defensive project started, he moved on to other projects and maintaining his enterprises. After making a trip to Mazbar, Marzab and Zamrab, he arrived back in Zarbam in time to return to Ramzab {PD Madeira} on the spring resupply return voyage. The colony was doing well with over 18,000 people with 4150 new colonists arriving each year. The farms were doing well, fruit trees flourishing, the herds and flocks large enough to provide dairy and meat.

The only issue facing the colony was the lack of salt. So far they had been doing small scale evaporation of seawater but Ramzab was too hilly for suitable evaporation ponds. Raben knew Later Island {PD Island of Porto Santo} was fairly flat in the southwest corner. To insure a steady supply of salt Raben procured a dozen Archimedes screws and the mechanical gears and bearings for the associated windmills for use on the salt ponds. Wind mills would also be effective for milling their grain.

While they had initially arrived they sailed around the island and no one had landed. Raben sent several Ravens to scout the island, thanking the birds when they reported their findings. Raben then spoke with the fishing crews. They verified there were large flat areas near the ocean on the southeast side of Later Island. As they organized an exploratory trip Raben dispatched a dozen ravens to do a closer fly over examination of the island.

Raben led an evaluation expedition to Later Island. There was a small cove on the southern tip where they beached the ships. The shore party found the area suitable to construct evaporation ponds. They would need to dig and waterproof the settling and evaporation ponds, then flood them in late May, allowing the water to evaporate over the dry summer so they could harvest the salt in late August. Depending on the rain and evaporation they could probably get two to three batches during the three month dry season. Salt-making operations were to be conducted in a series of three ponds. The ponds were separated from each other by 3 feet high by 8 feet wide well constructed dikes. The tops of the dikes would serve as roadways over which wagons and horses could travel. A slough would need to be dug a few feet deeper than low tide to allow the ocean water to flow inland. At the end of the channel the Archimedes screws propelled by wind mills would raise raw seawater into the highest ponds were it would sit for five days allowing suspended solids to settle out. That water would then be drained into a lower pond to allow evaporation to concentrate it into brine. When the solution became concentrated to the point the salt was ready to start settling out, the brine would then be drained into a lower crystalizing pond where the water would be evaporated off. They would start off with one set of ponds adding more as the need arose.

Raben realized they’d need to have a crew living on the island during the dry season to tend the ponds. To do so they also had to construct dams and cisterns on the arroyos to catch and hold fresh water. Looking at the dry southern relatively flat shore of the island they realized they could also set up a larger designated area for drying and storing fish for export. Another use of the dry island would be for olive cultivation. The dryer island seemed like the perfect environment for large drought resistant olive orchards. A small village would be needed which meant limited food and grain crops and probably sheep. Later island was coming into the present. Raben estimated Later Island could support a population of 5500 people compared to 289,500 for Ramzab.

One thing Raben wanted started was a shipyard. The people from Bazram had shipbuilding experience so the area designated for a shipyard was prepared to expand from storage, maintenance and repair to actual construction.

Growing flax in the colony was doing well. A larger press for extracting linseed oil from the seeds was needed. Also needed were larger looms to process the flax straw into linen cloth. Another flourishing import was hemp. This would be the basis of a soon to be profitable rope making industry. Quality wine was being made from the vineyards planted at higher altitudes. Raben left with the summer resupply voyage with a never ending ‘to do' list.

Upon Raben’s return to Zarbam he placed orders for goods and supplies as well as mechanisms for the additional windmills to ship out on the summer supply voyage. Raben then accompanied Corvus Shipping caravan to Barmaz where he discovered a growing dispute within the Church.

The Bishop of Rome and the vast majority of the bishops and priests under his jurisdiction held the theological view of Catholic Christianity believing in the Nicene Creed description that Jesus is God the Son being a single essence with God the Father along with God the Spirit. The Trinity is one of the cornerstones of Catholic Christianity. Many in the east, centered in Constantinople, believed in Arianism, a monotheistic Christological doctrine which asserts the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, is distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to the Father based on the belief that the Son of God did not always exist. There was an often acrimonious dispute between the two interpretations (Arianism and Catholicism) based upon the theological orthodoxy in power. Both attempted to solve their theological dilemma by condemning the other as blasphemy. So there were two ‘orthodox’ competing interpretations of Christianity which initiated conflict in order to attract believers and define the supreme orthodoxy. Catholicism was formally affirmed by the Ecumenical First Council of Nicaea of 325 which deemed Arianism to be a heresy. The great majority of Christians had no clear views about the nature of the Trinity and they did not understand what the two sides were arguing about. At the regional First Synod of Tyre in 335, Arianism was exonerated. Constantine had been baptized by an Arian bishop. His son Constantius II was Arian while sons Constantine II and Constans were Catholic.

The drama grew as Constantine II grew jealous that younger brother Constans had more territory. While Constans was involved in fighting across the Danube in Dacia, Constantine II attacked. Constans sent troops who killed Constantine II in an ambush on December 24, 340. The Franks took advantage of the imperial chaos to invade Gaul which Constans drove back during 341 and 342. While the oldest and youngest brothers were engaged, Constantius II was busy fighting off the once again invading Persians.

In December 342 Fiach landed in Alexandria heading for Zamrab. The docks were in chaos due to a dealer in exotic animals trying to find a ship sailing to Constantinople where he hoped to sell his stock. Unfortunately he couldn’t find anyone to take the entire shipment in one load and didn’t trust anyone he was not with to see the animals safely through the voyage. The city wanted the animals gone, either shipped out or simply moved to the countryside. The dealer was furious because of the cost of feeding the animals, especially the ravenous tigers. It was getting bad as the big cats were being underfed and anyone getting close to their cages was putting their lives in danger, which was the main reason no merchants wanted to risk their ships. Curious, Fiach headed to the impatient frustrated exotic animal dealer. What she found disgusted her. None of the animals were being treated well or fed properly. Most were on the verge of starvation sickness.

Fiach could see the dealer was in over his head so offered to buy the entire collection. The dealer dismissively demanded 2000 gold pieces.

“You’re never going to get that much,” Fiach bluntly told him. “I’ll give you 1000 silver.”

“What?” the frazzled man screamed. “That’s insulting! I have more than that invested!”

“That may be but the animals will soon be getting sick and die, then you’ll have nothing,” Fiach declared. “My offer will at least get you some return and relieve your headaches.”

“That’s robbery,” the irate man screamed.

At that point the harbor master and his security forces arrived. “Enough,” the beleaguered bureaucrat scolded. “I gave you two days to get these animals off the docks. It’s been three days. Either move them or we’ll be forced to kill them.”

The dealer’s mouth flopped open and snapped shut several times as he struggled to speak. His face turned bright red. Suddenly he incoherently screamed, pulled a knife and attacked the harbor master.

The harbor security was caught unprepared and the crazed man’s knife was raised ready to plunge into the harbor master’s chest. The harbor master froze in fear as he watched with horror as the knife was about to plunge into him. Suddenly the crazed dealer staggered and gasped dropping the knife. Slowly he pivoted in time to see a knife flying toward him sinking into his heart. With a final gasp he fell forward, dead before he hit the ground.

Everyone watched in awe as Fiach calmly stepped forward and pulled her knife from the dead man’s chest wiping it clean on the dead man’s robes before rolling him over to retrieve the first knife she’d thrown from between the man’s shoulder blades which she also wiped clean.

“Dumb ass,” Fiach said as she shook her head. “You should have taken my offer.”

If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
155 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 3969 words long.