Time on My Hands Chapter 48 - 365-368 CE: Earthquake Orphans and Widows

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Time On My Hands

Chapter 48: 365-368 CE: Earthquake Orphans and Widows

A massive earthquake {estimated 8+} occurred at about sunrise with an epicenter near Crete. The earthquake caused an uplift of 30 feet on the southwest corner of the island tapering to no uplift 30 miles east. Nearly every town on the island was destroyed. What had been the coast was now well above the water line. Tremors of the earthquake were felt in North Africa, Egypt, Anatolia, through out Greece and the Aegean Islands and even Italy. It caused widespread destruction in central and southern Greece. Worse was the resultant tsunami that struck Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, Sicily, and Italy.

In Egypt most people were awakened in the pre-dawn by the tremors and rushed outside. Anchored ships in the harbor at Alexandria tipped over as the water near the coast suddenly receded. Many poor people rushed out to loot the hapless ships as well as scoop up stranded fish. The massive tsunami wave then roared in crushing many houses near the shore. Ships were carried over the sea walls. Some landed on top of buildings. In Alexandria itself, approximately 5,000 people lost their lives and 50,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. The surrounding villages and towns suffered even greater destruction. Many were virtually wiped off the map. Outside the city in the flat Nile delta, 45,000 people were killed. In addition, the inundation by saltwater rendered farmland useless for years to come. The area’s shoreline was permanently changed by the disaster. The buildings of Alexandria’s Royal Quarter, the centuries old Ptolemaic home of Cleopatra, were overtaken by the sea following the tsunami, simply disappearing under the waves. In the region of the lagoon of al-Manzala, just east of the Delta between Damietta and Port Said, the previously rich farmland became a desert. Across the flat Nile Delta, the tsunami swept between 7 to 9 miles inland, the salt water contaminated the once fertile land for years.

When Fiach and the Corvus Shipping ships arrived in Alexandria, the devastation was still quite evident. Those who had survived were gathered in tent cities, their homes, fields, jobs swept away. Fiach promptly ordered the distribution of food supplies and clothing. Fiach had rushed supplies to Alexandria but it still took 3 weeks after the debacle to reach the shattered port. Nearly every structure had been damaged with many beyond repair. The tsunami was so devastating it left large ships on the roofs of some buildings. The canal/channelized Nile branch that flowed through Lake Mariout was ravaged but open. The city was rebuilding, but the going was slow since there was a dearth of needed building material and the population had been considerably reduced. The island Fiach had created in Lake Mariout to build the original Egyptian site of Corvus Scriptorium had been savaged. The building had collapsed, nearly washed away by the tsunami. Continuing upstream, she saw ships lying on their sides scattered in the debris filled fields of dead unharvestable crops up to 2 miles from the shore. The fields that should have been full of ripening grain were flattened and barren. The few clumps of grain that had not been washed away were brown and withered, poisoned by the salt water inundation that would take decades to leach out. Fortunately the current location of the Egyptian Corvus Scriptorium was unaffected by the tsunami although the apogee of the Tsunami flood was less than a half mile from the compound. A residual surge had swept past the docks but caused no harm.

Zamrab provided emergency rations and helped out as they could, providing succor to the dispossessed and injured. They acted as a clearing house reconnecting survivors. The supplies Fiach brought in were sorely needed. Zamrab also served as an orphanage for the children left parentless. Some of the parents who lost children adopted orphaned children. Those unadopted were brought into the Zamrab community as were many widows unable to support themselves and their children.

The repair fleets to Zawiyat/Minqar Rabih and Kardiotissa helped rebuild the port facilities. Additional supplies were brought to help the local population of Zawiyat rebuild their village and terraced fields. Food was provided as their crops had been devastated.

The tragedy made Fiach realize she needed to make more changes for the Clan Corvo to function as it should. Her personal morality as well as her Christianity would not allow her to ignore the plight of orphans and widows. The tsunami had not only effected Egypt, it had devastated many areas. Adults could, to a certain degree, look after themselves. Children however, especially the younger ones, were dependent on adults. Many widows had no marketable skills and were left destitute. When natural disasters strike or diseases ran rampant or during times of war many children and widows were simply abandoned to a horrible death of slow starvation or enslavement. As true devout Christians the Clan Corvo had an obligation to do what it could for widows and children left without bread winners and caregivers. Orphanages/poor houses needed to be established in every location. Barmaz and Barzam would be the main sites looking after the orphaned or abandoned children and widows. The other Clan locations would serve as collection points, sending the children on to Barmaz and Barzam. Fiach issued orders setting up orphanages/poor houses in all locations. All of Clan Corvo would be on the lookout for abandoned children and poverty-stricken widows. They let it be known they would take in and resettle widows and children in need, going so far as to pay the expenses of feeding and transporting the widows and children to the Clan Corvo collection points. They also made it clear the children and widows taken in were not destined for slavery or servitude, but would be fully integrated into the Clan Corvo. They also let it be known that families who had too many mouths to feed could turn their excess children over to the Clan.

Fiach stayed two months in Egypt helping to rebuild villages and feed the destitute. She dispatched relief ships throughout the eastern Mediterranean. The ships returned to Zarbam with destitute families, widows and orphans. Nearly 35,000 were brought to the port by the end of 365. Of these 25,000 were spread through Barmaz while 10,000 were sent to Ibiza. Even after that time, destitute families, widows and orphans came to the Clan Corvo begging to join the Clan.

Life for the Demon Slayer saw Fiach interested in the humanitarian side of things like growing the Clan Corvo. Raben took care of the physical growth of the colony, the military, and the political aspects. Fiach/Raben didn’t let her/his current role stop from doing what needed to be done. Raben could clearly see his apprehensions about the looming collapse of the Roman Empire were coming to fruition. Many of the Emperors came to power with good intentions only to have their efforts corrupted by megalomania. The same was true for many Christian leaders. With the constantly building turmoil both inside and outside the Roman Empire, things would eventually crash and burn.

Then Raben had an epiphany. Due to his time in Spain Raben had become quite aware of the deleterious effects of lead poisoning which included peripheral neuropathy, fatigue, irritability, impaired concentration, hearing loss, altered mental states, nausea, indigestion, and constipation. These were many of the symptoms the Roman Emperors exhibited near the end of their often too short lives.

The wealthy and powerful amongst the Romans desired heavily flavored food, but lacked sweetening agents. Honey worked, but a large amount of honey was necessary to sweeten and honey was often in short supply. Grapes, however, were plentiful. Roman winemakers found that boiling unfermented grape juice created a sweeter liquid known as defrutum or sapa. Defrutum was created by boiling off half the volume of wine, while sapa was the result of a reduction to one-third the original volume of wine. Romans used the sweeter liquids to improve the flavor of existing foods, preserve fruit and to resurrect sour wine. The boiling process involved long hours and high temperatures in large lead caldrons which caused lead to seep out of the container which inadvertently artificially sweetened the defrutum and sapa. However, this resulted in dangerous amounts of lead. Winemakers used lead containers over brass ones to boil down the compound when they noticed the lead pots yielded a sweeter flavor. A typical Roman might drink a liter of wine in a day, and, in doing so, ingest up to 20 mg of lead in the process. Romans learned how to make the crystalline form of lead acetate which forms a clear crystal similar to glucose or table salt. A lead derivative was included in 90 of the 450 recipes included in a 4th century Roman cook book. However the lower and middle classes could not afford the expense so were saved from a scourge.

Like many people even to this day, during times of stress alcohol consumption rose significantly. As a result, the wealthy and powerful, such as the Emperor, consumed huge amounts of lead. The stress of being Emperor naturally encouraged the consumption of the treated wine, with many becoming alcoholics. The effects of the lead only aggravated the natural paranoia the office engendered. The lead altered mental states also led to the prevalence of Alexander the Great syndrome. Unfortunately, there was little Raben could do to prevent the lead poisoning amongst people outside of Clan Corvo.

Valentinian I succeeded Jovian as Roman emperor. Upon becoming emperor he made his brother, Valens, co-emperor, giving him rule of the eastern provinces while Valentinian I retained the west. With Gaul having once more been stripped of troops to fill ranks of Julian’s ill fated Persian invasion, in 366 Gaul was again overrun by Alemanni hordes. The winter of 365-66 was colder than normal allowing the Rhine to freeze. The Alemanni freely crossed the frozen river and sacked the unprotected city of Moguntiacum {PD Mainz} killing many of the occupants. This forced Emperor Valentinian I to spend years repeating Julian's Gallic campaign.

Liberius, Bishop of Rome, died on September 21, 366. Factional fighting began between the supporters of anti-bishop Felix who had died a year earlier and supporters of Liberius. The factions met separately electing rival Bishops, Damasus I and Ursinus, both on October 1, 366. Because of the rioting mobs in Rome, in 367 Ursinus was banished by emperor Valentinian.

The Clan Corvo colonial fleets continued to sail. In 366 and 367 there were 2752 colonists sent to Ibiza, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Caneria, Fuerteventura and Lanzerote. That put colonists on each of the Canary Islands. In addition, because of increased raiding by the Scotti from Hibernia on Britannia {PD Ireland}, which passed by the Isle of Man, a division of mounted Raven Raiders was sent to the Isle of Man, 6786 people, each year.

Roman troops in Britannia had been stripped by Magnentius during his attempted usurpation during 351-3. Replacement troops never made it past Gaul, nor did the money to pay the remaining troops. By 367 the troops along Hadrian’s Wall revolted and deserted allowing the Caledonian Picts to raid into Britain. Over those same years without effective Roman oversight, local officials grew greedy and corrupt. Many long unpaid Roman troops deserted. Local militias collapsed allowing many slaves to flee. The deserters and slaves combined into roving bands of brigands. Taking advantage of the chaos caused by the Alemanni resurgence, the Franks and Saxons began seaborne raids along the northern coast of Gaul and the southeastern coast of Britannia. Also taking advantage of the chaos the Scotti from Hibernia raided the western seacoasts. Raiding parties plundered across the length and breadth of Britannia as Roman control collapsed. A few of the larger cities held out but the countryside was ransacked and plundered.

Upon seeing the rapid influx of Clan Corvo colonists on the Isle of Man, the Scotti raided the colonists. They expected to find farmers and merchants fleeing or cowering before them. Instead they met armed resistance by everyone age 13 and older. It quickly became evident the defenders were well trained in fighting and tactics. Even worse was the swarms of Ravens and wolves that descended upon them, seemingly coordinated with the defenders. All attempts at flanking the defenders failed as they had been warned of the action. Then came the thundering charges of the mounted troops. The Scotti raiders had been expecting an easy raid found themselves being cut to ribbons. Nearly 75% of the invaders were killed or captured and enslaved. The remainder fled to their vessels only to discover the well armed vessels of Corvus Shipping blocking the harbor exit. The 2 Scotti vessels that managed to escape the harbor were pursued, 1 was sunk the other captured. Not one Scotti escaped.

A fleet of 20 Corvus Shipping vessels sailed into Loughshinny harbor 2 days later to where the Romans had established a small trading post on Drumanagh peninsula. The ships bristled with armed men and the on board onagers were uncovered. The Irish panicked, the women and children fleeing inland while the men grabbed weapons and prepared to fight. One ship drew withing hailing range of the docks.

“At this point we come in peace,” the leader shouted. “I have a message to spread amongst your people. I am General Abraham, governor and military commander of the Clan Corvo settlement on the Isle of Man. A Scotti fleet of 15 vessels attacked our settlement 3 days ago. You can spread the word that none of them will be returning. We killed or captured every man and sunk or captured every vessel. The 500 we captured are now our slaves. In 2 months they will be transported south 2700 miles to our homeland. If they cooperate, after 3 years they will be freed and allowed to join our Clan. If they are disobedient, they will be castrated and permanently enslaved. We will not ransom them.”

“If they have families, the families are welcome to join us as free persons,” General Abraham continued. “We will allow the slave to live with his family. Once his slavery is finished, they can all join the Clan Corvo. In addition, the widows and orphans of those Scotti killed in the raid will be offered sanctuary and welcomed and accepted into the Clan Corvo.”

“We have a list of those captured and killed along with the names of the ships sunk or captured,” General Abraham declared. “The Isle of Man is territory of the Clan Corvo. We want to be left in peace. We are open to trade and will provide shelter to ships during storms. We have a fleet of 150 ships such as those you see here base on the island. We have 20,000 mounted soldiers on the island. In addition, at age 13, every male and female joins our militia where they are trained as warriors. That means everyone age 13 and older are trained warriors. Those who dared raid us walked into a hornet’s nest of steel. Be warned, if there are any further raids there will be severe retaliation. We can summon 500 ships and 65,500 additional soldiers in 4 weeks and just as many every four weeks after that. We will utterly destroy every village that launched a vessel and kill or capture every person and animal in the area. Do not test us!”

“We will return in 3 weeks to pick up and families, widows or orphans who may wish to join us,” General Abraham added. “We welcome visitors. If you come in peace you will be welcomed, if you come to fight, we will give your last fight.” A rowboat was dispatched with a list of casualties from the raid.

The Scotti quickly learned to peacefully utilize the harbors on the Isle of Man as the Raven Raiders and armed Corvus Shipping vessels were readily visible and intimidating. In the end, 1200 Scotti women and children joined the Clan. All 1700 were relocated south to Ibiza.

In spring of 368 Valentinian dispatched General Theodosius to Britannia. Fortunately the invaders were more interested in plunder than fighting so moved about in small bands which fled back to their homelands or melted into the forests instead of fighting. Order was restored and defenses were rebuilt. However, the Roman hold on Britannia was steadily slipping away. The wealthy landowners were starting to field their own defense troops and had some arms available for the common people to assist in self defense. The holders of large estates were once more building log palisade forts on hilltops. The farmers and small villages sought refuge in the strongholds in times of trouble. The wealthy were building their own mini fiefdoms.

Raben and the Raven Raiders kept away from the intrigue and fighting doing their best to maintain a neutrality that treated all sides equally. The Alemanni and Franks recognized the Demon Slayer and the Clan Corvo were a very real threat and that Raben was content to let them live their lives as they wanted as long as they did not interfere with the interests of the Clan Corvo. The Franks had seen Raben in action and had heard from the Alemanni the ferocity of the Raven Raiders as well as the wolves, tigers, ravens and eagles. Both groups fully understood that as long as they didn’t mess with the Clan Corvo they would be treated fairly in all dealings with the Clan Corvo.

However, 363 had been the last year of the annual spring trading up the Rhine. The merchants of the empire had lost their military escort. Many merchants asked to be included in any future trade missions. Even more requests had come from those who lived along the route. In early 368 Raben sent messengers north along the Rhine letting everyone know the Raven Raiders would make one last trip to Colonia Agrippina starting in April. The purpose was to escort merchants but more importantly, anyone who wanted to join the Clan Corvo could join the convoy and return to Barmaz. Basically it was an open enrollment call.

As before 3 divisions of Raven Raiders accompanied the trading caravan heading north from Barmaz. In addition to the tough and disciplined Raven Raiders the tigers, wolves, eagles and ravens continued to strike fear into those who might consider attacking. That the Clan Corvo had the willing cooperation of wild animals while no one else could do so made the Clan Corvo’s claim they were blessed by the Christian God quite plausible. No one wanted to cross swords with the Clan Corvo.

Local merchants as well as a handful of national merchants regularly accompanied the Corvus Shipping caravans knowing they would be under the protection of the Raven Raiders. It was well known that Corvus Shipping charged a reasonable fee for every wagon and pack animal that accompanied a caravan. The merchants knew they had to follow the itinerary of the Corvus Shipping caravan or they’d be left behind.

The merchants thrived on the trip since it was well known to be the last trip guarded by the Raven Raiders. People along the route snapped up the trade goods. On the return, 33,000 war weary refugees abandoned their homes to join the last convoy eager for the chance to join the Clan Corvo.

The refugees were stunned upon seeing the massive defensive walls that surrounded Barmaz drove home the power and wealth of the Clan Corvo. Anyone seeing the walls and glacis knew thousands of hours of labor went into the construction. Those entering the province were intimidated by the massive gate complexes. That those guarding the gates could enforce the disarmament of travelers was mind boggling. The inter-province roads across Barmaz restricted travelers into what were nothing less than miles long kill-zones. They were amazed that there was no elite class, nor was there poverty.

Raben was quick to point out that Barmaz was NOT wealthy since so much was spent to pay for the construction of the defenses and eliminating poverty. Raben took the admonitions of the Christian writings to heart. His philosophy was best summed up in 1 Timothy 6: “These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

For Raben/Fiach, that last line hit home. He certainly had taken hold of eternal life. His exposure to the gods reinforced the truths and promises of Christianity. The problem was to stay the course and avoid temptation.

Everyone in the Clan Corvo had the chance to improve their place in life. Advancement was based on ability and drive. No one, not even Raben, lived in luxury. The top socioeconomic class was what would be considered comfortable middle class. The Emperors who came through Clan Corvo land were mystified by the lack of an upper class. The fact Raben, a Roman Senator and head of the Clan Corvo, lived like a commoner was beyond their comprehension. But it was the simple life he lived that served as the prime example for the entire clan. Raben/Fiach walked the talk.

It wasn’t unusual for Raben to spend time as Fiach. When he switched identities, it normally was for at least a full week, often several weeks. While much of how he lived in either role was the same, there were some significant differences as he found himself conforming at least somewhat to societal norms for his projected gender. The entire orphan/widow rescue appealed to Fiach. It was easier to deal with political matters as a male. Fortunately, being in the role of a particular gender did not limit the ability to react as the opposite. Fiach realized it was her maternal instincts that fostered cooperation and caring. Humanity was naturally inclined to help those in need. At the same time they tended to be greedy. When a person had adequate food, clothing and shelter greed becomes muted. When those things were in short supply or being threatened, greed flourished. The secret of the Clan Corvo was that they worked to insure everyone had adequate food, clothing and shelter.

They had developed what anthropologists would term a pervasive ‘Gifting’ culture. Humans find that giving things to others makes the giftees grateful and well disposed to the giver. In addition, the act of giving makes the giver feel good. The proverb of ‘It’s better to give than receive’ was quite true. To give you had to have enough to feel secure which leads to contentment and cohesiveness. The pervasiveness of the Gifting Culture was not the end of strife. The Clan Corvo practiced ‘radical inclusion' to help their neighbors yet understood people needed private space. Fiach realized that while giving felt good, it could become TOO important. Private time, alone time, was also needed, boundaries needed to be present to separate the public sharing from privacy. It was the balance between public and privacy that allowed the Clan Corvo to be so strong and resilient, to be open and yet closed. It gave everyone a sense of being part of something bigger and better than being alone and selfish.

Perhaps the strongest influence on the Clan Corvo was the gender duality of Raben/Fiach. Traditionally there were 2 types of clan/tribal leadership, both of which had strong and weak points. Those were Patriarchy and Matriarchy. Raben/Fiach very effectively combined them featuring the strong points of both which mitigated weak points.

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Moor's Utopia

This read's like a latter-day version of Thomas Moore's Utopia. Primarily it only works when there is sufficient for all but fails in times of severe shortages. In truth, given the propensity of humanity to worry about the future, greed is in no small part a product of need and perceived future need. Religion is one of humanity's attempts to address these very real human natures, but it invariably falls victim to it's own endeavours. As a consequence religion, especially monotheistic religions become polluted with that very same greed and consequently preoccupied with power, sex and money. Thanks however for the historical insights.
Beverly Taff xx


Dictatorhips are amoung the most efficient governments on earth

Wendy Jean's picture

Raben/Fiach are an example of an enlightened dictatorship, The fact the are immune from death gives them a power that can only be described as devine. So far they seem immune from corruption, not a normal state of affairs for humans in general.

Enjoying This Tale

In many ways it seems quite plausible also, though in this present world, not many would believe certain aspects of it. I was a bit surprised by the regular passage from the Mediterranean up to the Isle of Wight. I'm assuming that much of this story has basis in factual history. America, where I live, they arrogantly assume that the Atlantic ocean was impassible, but I think it likely that regular passage was done, even in the BC years from Africa to South America, using the Trade Winds, though at first that was perhaps accidental.

Much peace.


There Must Be Mistakes

joannebarbarella's picture

No human organisation is immune from mistakes. My main quibble with this story so far is that Clan Corvo does not seem to have made any mistakes.

Quoth the Raven, "For the forseeable future... more".

Beoca's picture

Clan Corvo makes Poe's quote original quote inaccurate. They aren't really going on crusades to wipe stuff out (unless you count the number of uninhabited islands in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean). The real magic is focusing inward, while simultaneously putting in an amount of labor that will ensure that the various tribes that ravage the Western Roman Empire will not ravage Barmaz. Their operations are going to be safe barring a truly exorbitant amount of force, and Barmaz probably is impregnable for any army that lacks an air force of some sort. Even Great Bombards are probably not going to be battering those walls down.

As Raben/Fiach acknowledges, every visionary's vision gets corrupted by power inevitably passing along. Within a couple of generations, it is gone. With the Curse, this can never happen to Clan Corvo, barring a ground-up corruption of the unity of the Clan. But that seems unlikely.