Time on My Hands Chapter 54 - 387-393 CE: Canals & Growth

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Time on My Hands

Chapter 54: 387-393 CE: Canals & Growth

Raben stayed another year making sure things were running smoothly. As he had expected, once the conquered locals accepted and settled into their status as slaves they saw the advantages of the new way of life. The fact the colonists openly accepted them was almost beyond their comprehension. The began to look forward to earning their freedom.

The neighboring tribes sent traders and diplomatic envoys to Dakar. The sight of the huge ships amazed them as did the substantial stone houses and paved streets of Dakar. The wagons on the roads between the villages, bridges across the streams, the level of inter-village trading and the ease of travel was far beyond anything they'd ever imagined. Units of Raven Raiders were everywhere. Raben welcomed the traders and dealt honestly and openly with the delegations. Several witnessed the punishment of his own people who did not live up to the expectations of the Clan Corvo. None doubted the ability of the newcomers to defend their newly won territory. Besides, the Clan Corvo seemed to have a never ending supply of salt to trade which was a precious commodity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Raben sent word to Barmaz that starting in 388, he wanted to increase the emigration from Barmaz from the current 26,000 a year to 33,000 per year. That meant 52,139 people headed to Africa. Included with the new colonists was another division of Raven Raiders. The colonists numbered 42,988 people. There were 40716 Raven Raiders and 13,572 Pathfinders for a total Clan Corvo Senegal population of 97,278. There were also 280,000 native African slaves who were 1.5 years into their 3 year servitude. Many of the Raven Raiders, Pathfinders, and ship crews began marrying locals, which automatically earned them their freedom and membership in the Clan Corvo. The merger of the two societies was occurring rapidly and smoothly.

While Senegal was being settled, the Pathfinders continued searching for the last mid Atlantic set of islands. In the beginning of 388, they found them, 350 miles due west from Senegal and Cape Vert. They named the chain of 9 unihabited but quite habitable islands, the Cape Verde Islands. Sal {GM 16.733275, -22.935711} was canine tooth shaped, 22 miles by 7 miles. Boa Vist {GM 16.091502, -22.807198} was circular, 19 miles diameter. Sao Nicolau {GM 16.602337, -24.313947} was irregular shaped, 28 miles by 12 miles. São Vicente {GM 16.831143, -24.977195} was squarish, 15 miles by 10 miles. Santo Antao {GM 17.046756, -25.157871 was rectangular, 25 miles by 12 miles. Maio {GM 15.212257, -23.145497} was rectangular, 19 miles by 16 miles. Santiago {GM 15.080377, -23.637959} was flounder shaped, 46 miles by 22 miles. Fogo {GM 14.913898, -24.386912} was circular 15 miles in diameter. Brava {GM 14.851177, -24.710448} was oval, 15 miles by 10 miles. Raben sent a battalion of Pathfinders, 746 people, to explore and establish bases for future settlement. They planted orchards and crops, developed water sources and in dryer areas built cisterns. Roads and harbors were built, natural resources were prospected and the islands mapped. The islands of Sal, Santo Antao and Fogo were each garrisoned by a troop of 79 Pathfinders. The islands of Brava, Miao, Boa Vista, Nicolau and Vincente were each garrisoned by a section of 23 Pathfinders. The island of Santiago had the balance of the battalion of 394 Pathfinders.

Raben could no longer make yearly trips to each Clan Corvo site. The religious situation in Egypt and Rome demanded more of his attention as he tried to keep the Clan Corvo out of the growing spiritual strife and bigotry. Finding a way to not upset already ruffled feathers was a headache he didn’t need. The work of Corvus Scriptorium was being impinged by growing religious intolerance and never ending accusations of heresy.

Co-emperor Maximus, in charge of Britannia and Gaul, wanted more territory. In 387 to further his ambitions he pulled more troops from the borders to invade Italy crossing through Reatia into northern Italy over the eastern Alp passes to take Italy. When he learned Theodosius was heading into Illyricum {PD Croatia} to stop him he led his forces into the same area. While Maximus delayed in apprehension, Theodosius, spreading rumors of an impending invasion of Italy from the sea, boldly advanced through Illyricum with his main army, at the same time sending his Frankish lieutenant Arbogast further north through Rhaetia along the Danube into Gaul. Maximus had his troops arrayed to prevent Theodosius from crossing the Save River near Sisak in present day Croatia. When the Eastern empire troops arrived at the river in the late afternoon they promptly charged the river. The defenders were caught off guard thinking the attack would occur the next day. Theodosius’ troops succeeded in crossing the river and forcing the crossing. The next day Maximus tried to force Theodosius back but failed suffering heavy losses. He fled into Italy under hot pursuit until trapped when his troops surrendered him. Theodosius had him executed on July 28, 388.

As part of his guardianship over the by then 17 year old Valentinian II, Theodosius executed all administrators who had assisted Maximus, appointing loyal key administrators in the West. Part of the shake up involved moving the Gaul Imperial residence to Vienne, a city along the Rhone south of Lyons in southern Gaul, far from the influence of Bishop Ambrose in Milan. Representatives from Ambrose and the Pope were refused passage through Barmaz and stopped at the borders creating tension between the Corvo Church and the Church of Rome. Theodosius's trusted Frankish general, Arbogast, was appointed military commander for the Western provinces and guardian of Valentinian II.

Between 389–392 the "Theodosian decrees" were issued instituting a major change in religious policies which removed non-Nicene Christians from church office and abolished the last remaining expressions of Roman pagan religion by making its holidays into workdays, banned blood sacrifices, closed Roman temples, confiscated temple endowments and disbanded the Vestal Virgins. The practices of taking auspices, such as reading the entrails of slaughtered animals, and witchcraft were punished by death. For centuries Christians had asked for tolerance from the Pagan faiths. Now that they had the upper hand, they did all they could to destroy every trace of Paganism. But it didn't stop there. The various Christian factions viciously attacked each other accusing their opponents of heresy. This was particularly prevalent in Alexandria.

By 391 Alexandria was the second largest city in empire and Egypt's main Greek city with people from diverse backgrounds. Alexandria was not only a center of Hellenism, but was also home to the largest urban Jewish community in the world. The Septuagint, the accepted Greek version of the Tanakh and the Old Testament, was produced there. The Romans kept order in the city and fostered it’s development into the leading Hellenistic center of learning featuring the Library of Alexandria while maintaining the distinctness of its population's four largest ethnicities: Roman, Greek, Jewish, and Egyptian. After Rome and Constantinople, Alexandria was considered the third-most important seat of Christianity in the world. The Pope of Alexandria was second only to the bishop of Rome. The Church of Alexandria had jurisdiction over most of the continent of Africa. Numerous schools and symposiums thrived in the diverse city.

One of the world class scholars teaching there was Hypatia, the daughter of the mathematician Theon who was the head of a school called the Mouseion. Theon's school was exclusive, highly prestigious, and doctrinally conservative. Theon took pride in teaching a pure, Plotinian Neoplatonism. He was widely seen as a great mathematician. Hypatia was a Hellenistic Neoplatonist philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician. A prominent thinker of the Neoplatonic school in Alexandria, she taught philosophy and astronomy. Hypatia was renowned as a great teacher and a wise counselor. The Alexandrian school was renowned for its philosophy and Alexandria was regarded as second only to Athens as the philosophical capital of the Greco-Roman world. Hypatia taught students from all over the Mediterranean. She lectured on the writings of Plato and Aristotle often walking through Alexandria in a tribon, a kind of cloak associated with philosophers, giving impromptu public lectures.
Two main varieties of Neoplatonism were being taught in Alexandria, the first was the overtly pagan religious Neoplatonism taught at the Serapeum. The second variety was the more moderate and less controversial variety championed by Hypatia and her father Theon, which was based on the teachings of Plotinus. Although Hypatia herself was a pagan, she was tolerant of Christians. {Every one of her historically known students was Christian.} The Mouseion {Institution of the Muses} had originally been a separate campus but had been severely damaged during the Palmyrene occupation and defeat with the repaired remnants destroyed by the Tsunami of 365. After that it shared space with the Serapeum, an ancient Greek temple built by Ptolemy III. {A religious institution dedicated to the blended Greco-Egyptian deity Serapis}. It was often called the daughter of the Library of Alexandria.

For the past 191 years, what Fiach began when she opened the Corvus Scriptorium site in Alexandria, had been continued even during the Palmyrene occupation. The scrolls, books and texts of the Library of Alexandria and at the Serapeum had been copied and dutifully sent to Barmaz. Over the years as fires and tsunamis destroyed the originals, the copies remained in the main Corvus Scriptorium library in Barmaz as well as in the still hidden secret archives. Fiach made sure to obtain copies of the writings and teachings of scholars like Theon and Hypatia. Other scholars were always eager to have their work immortalized. As the Christian intolerance increased, the Corvus Scriptorium libraries kept in Rome and Alexandria were purged of potentially ‘blasphemous’ tomes.

Theophilis, the Pope of Alexandria, used the Theodosian decrees to crush Pagans. In 391 he allowed riots instigated by fanatical Christians, mainly the self-martyring monks living in the desert, to destroy the Serapeum because of the collections of what they considered heretical documents that were stored in the library. Their actions destroyed thousands of what most people thought of as irreplaceable documents since they didn’t know of the even larger Library of Corvus Scriptorium in Barmaz. The overtly Pagan Neoplatonists were executed and their teachings demonized while the conservative Neoplatonists like Hypatia and her father were spared. They continued teaching and lecturing in the adjunct buildings on the campus of the destroyed Serapeum. They refused to let the mobs stifle what they felt was their duty to educate. They were the first of many intellectuals who fatally dismissed religious fanatics as inconsequential. {Continuing to this day, ie ISIS}

Acting in the name of Valentinian II, Arbogast was subordinate only to Theodosius. While the general campaigned successfully on the Rhine, Valentinian II remained at Vienne. Arbogast's domination over the young emperor was considerable. A crisis developed when Arbogast prohibited the emperor from leading the Gallic armies into Italy to oppose a barbarian threat coming from the Danube. Indignant, Valentinian II, in writing, formally dismissed the general who ignored the order, publicly tearing it up and arguing that Valentinian II had not appointed him. The reality of where the power truly lay was openly displayed. Valentinian II petulantly wrote to Theodosius and Bishop Ambrose complaining of the insubordination of his general. On May 15, 392, Valentinian II was found hanged in his residence in Vienne. Arbogast maintained that the young emperor's death was a suicide. General Arbogast, unable to assume the role of Emperor because of his non-Roman background, selected Eugenius, a former teacher of rhetoric whom he had made Valentinian II's master of offices, to succeed Valentinian II as western empire emperor. Eugenius sought Theodosius' recognition in vain. Theodosious bluntly rebuffed every entreaty as he prepared for war.

Upon learning that another internal war was once more brewing, Fiach left Alexandria to return to Barmaz. Upon arriving at Zarbam Raben emerged to take charge of the budding crisis. His visible presence with a strong Raven Raider escort touring the Barmaz border crossings was enough to keep both sides away.

After finally gathering troops, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, Theodosius led a large army west. Though nominally Christian, the western emperor usurper, Eugenius, was quite sympathetic to pagans. The war assumed religious overtones with Christianity pitted against the last attempt at a pagan revival. In Ilyricum at the Battle of Frigidus in September 394, general Arbogast lost and committed suicide rather than be captured. Usurper Eugenius was captured and executed. The battle was the last serious attempt to contest the Christianization of the empire. The outcome decided the outcome of Christianity in the western Empire and the final decline of Greco-Roman polytheism in favor of Christianity over the following century. The defeat of Eugenius and his commander, the Frankish magister militum Arbogast, put the whole empire back in the hands of a single emperor for the last time.

However, it did little to re-establish stability. A few months later, on January 17, 395 in Milan, Theodosius died from a disease involving severe edema. As he lay dying Theodosius designated his sons as co-emperors. In the east 18 year old Arcadius took the throne. In the West, 10 year old Honorius ascended to the throne.

Neither Emperor would ever show any sign of fitness to rule. As their guardians, Theodosius had assigned general Stilicho to rule in the name of Honorius in the Western Empire, and in the Eastern Empire Flavius Rufinus was the actual power behind the throne of Arcadius. During the first part of his reign, Honorius was wholly dependant on the leadership of his soon to be father-in-law. Honorius based his capitol in Milan, thus was greatly influenced by Siricius, Pope of Rome, who sought to extend his influence through his youth and weak character.

During that time Raben joined a small Corvus Shipping clinker ship fleet, the first to travel up the newly completed canal from the port of Zarbam to Lac Leman. Building the canal along the Durance and other Barmaz Rivers and streams initially proved problematical. Because of the winter snows on the Alps and the resultant spring melts, the streams flooded. The quicker the melt, the worse the floods. As a result the canals had to be dug away from but paralleling the streams. Part of the process of digging the canals was channelizing the rivers to control the annual spring flooding and provide water to the canal. At the same time the canal served a secondary purpose by drawing off some of the flood water. The canals were built to allow vessels heading opposite directions to pass. The minimum was a 4 feet depth and 30 feet useable width to accommodate the standard Norse clinker ship which was 54 feet long with a beam of 12 feet, a draw of 3 feet and a capacity of 24 tons of cargo. The locks were built as side by side twins with each 60 feet long by 15 feet wide with a drop/raise of 10 feet. The locks operated as a pair draining from one to fill the other to the mid-point thus saving water.

Upon leaving the Etang de Berre they entered a series of 17 twin locks to lift the ships 168 feet in height. Then the canal flowed flat for 9.25 miles to the village of Salon de Provence to a series of 11 twin locks for a rise of 104 feet. The canal then cut through the hills and valleys for 11.5 miles to the village of Mallemort on the Durance, a gradual lowering in height of 104 feet requiring 11 lock pairs. The amount of water from the Durance coupled with the local streams flowing into the canal provided more than enough water to operate the locks. The canal followed the Durance 99 miles to a half mile north of the village of Curbans with a rise of 456 feet requiring 46 locks. From there the canal ran north roughly along the stream Le Rousine north to the village of Pre Longet then northwest crossing to the stream La Luye near the village of Les Termes to just past the town of Gap, a rise of 592 feet requiring 60 locks over a distance of 13 miles. Then up through the pass Col De Manse at a height of 4160 feet, a rise of 1640 feet requiring 164 locks over a distance of 5 miles. Every stream in the area was dammed. The dams were built to divert 90% of the end of summer flow. The remaining 10% and the spring floods would overtop them and continue down the original stream channel. The diverted water was channeled to supply water for the locks.

On the north side of the pass the canal paralleled the stream Le Drac for 60 miles to the town of Grenoble drop 3376 feet requiring 338 locks. From there it follows the Isere River 52 miles to the village of Albertville, a rise of 302 feet with 31 locks. Then it followed the stream L’Arly to the stream La Chaise 12 miles through the water divide at 1650 feet in the village of Faverges, a rise of 624 feet requiring 63 locks. The 16 miles along the stream L’Eau Morte to Annecy-le-Vieux, a drop of 128 feet requiring 13 locks. The canal the rose 616 feet requiring 62 locks over 10 miles then down 1152 feet requiring 116 locks over 8 miles to the village of Les Rochs on the Arve River. The route followed 13 miles down the Arve to a short level connector to the town of Geneva and Lac Leman.

In Senegal the rivers and streams of the area were tamed. During the dry season the water flow in the rivers and bayous was greatly reduced. The area was so close to sea level that salt water intruded far up the wide sluggish rivers, up to 45 miles inland on the Senegal River. During the dry season the salt water seeped into the lowering water table rendering much of the flood plain barren. A half mile from the coast each river and bayou was reinforced stone dams were built to a height of 5 feet above high tide and 50 feet wide on top to prevent the salt water intrusion. Stone multi-arch bridges 30 feet wide were built the top to provide year round road transport across the dams. Within 2 years of stopping the salt intrusion, the former barren lands were transformed into arable land greatly increasing the farmland.

The rivers and streams flooded during the rainy seasons During the wet season, the rivers overflowed their banks into huge low lying deltas watering rice paddies. All the rivers and many streams were dammed to create shallow reservoirs in low lying areas. The low head stone dams of 10 feet maximum height were built 40 feet wide on top, with 30 feet wide stone multi-arch bridges on the top to create raised roadways connected to causeways across the flooded areas beside the streams to provide safe crossing even at the highest floods. The dams were designed remain intact when overtopped during flooding. All flood prone villages were rebuilt with sturdy stone retaining walls. The area inside the walls were filled creating wall encased mounds raised 5 feet above the floods. The bridges and causeways connecting the villages were built to remain above the floods. As in Barmaz, navigable canals and locks were built parallel to the streams. Irrigation canals were built to allow farming during the dry season.

Additional tillable land was greatly increased by building sturdy low stone dams to a height of 5 feet above high tide on the rivers and bayous about a mile in from the coast. Sand was hauled from the coastal sand dunes to fill in the bayous and swamps eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other insects while at the same time eliminated the breeding grounds for the deadly African crocodiles.

As a result of those actions the food supply exploded. In addition vast salt evaporation pans were created along the coast inside the area below the salt intrusion prevention dams. These pans created a local supply of the salt used for trading. The plentiful food resulted in the surrounding tribes having little of valuable to trade. One thing the surrounding natives did have was slaves. Warfare, often ritual, was so common amongst the tribes of west Africa it was an integral part of their way of life, in both the dry areas of the sub-Sahara and the jungles of West Africa. They seldom engaged in large battles because they didn’t want to disrupt their way of life. But for the upper classes, small scale warfare was a way of achieving prestige and rank. It was quite common for slaves to be captured in raids against neighbors or for a tribe to sell off their criminals as slaves. When the Clan Corvo let it be known they'd trade salt for slaves, the number inter-tribal of slave raids and the resultant warfare increased. As was Clan Corvo practice, slaves were worked for 3 years, being taught the language and Clan life in the process, before being welcomed into the Clan. This increased the ranks of the clan by an average of 20,000 a year while also weakening the neighboring tribes who could only trust the Clan Corvo to treat them honestly.

During trade, the Clan Corvo always dealt openly and honestly with their neighbors, openly touting the Corvoian way of life. Tales of the Demon Slayer’s exploits in the Roman Empire rapidly became legendary. Open offers to the traders to join the Clan Corvo were made. The clans and tribes neighboring Senegal saw the wealth and much higher standard of living in the Clan Corvo area. They noted that the slaves were freed and welcomed into the Clan thus gaining prestige and wealth. The roads, bridges and dams controlled the flooding of the rivers during the wet seasons creating reservoirs for the dry seasons. They also witnessed the preservation of native traditions with many often incorporated into the Clan Corvo.

Since 389, the situation in Senegal improved. Cape Verde Islands received 2000 colonists a year split 1000 to an island in a rotation to populate each island. The yearly flow of 52,139 Clan Corvo people to Senegal continued. The 6 divisions of Raven Raiders remained intact while a third division of Pathfinders arrived, the fleet increased to a full division of sailors/marines. In addition, there was a steady influx of 20,000 slaves per year traded by the surrounding native populations in exchange for salt.

By 393, 377,127 Clan Corvo born people and 280,000 African born natives that had been originally conquered, 120,000 purchased slaves/salt with a population growth of 2% gave the African colony a population of 844,932 living in the colony which had expanded to occupy all the territory the conquered native peoples had held. The integration of the 2 peoples was smooth with thousands of mixed race children. All the original slaves and all but the last 3 years of purchased slaves had earned their freedom becoming members of the Clan Corvo. Not only had the entire area originally conquered had been reoccupied, there had been tremendous population expansion in all directions. As in all other area of the Clan Corvo, all citizens age 13 and above joined the militia to learn to fight as well as create unity and discipline. Since the Clan Corvo was Corvoian Christian, that became the faith of Senegal while retaining the respect and honor of their past beliefs.

In 393 a neighboring clan, seriously weakened by the incessant slave wars and on the verge of collapse, sought salvation by joining the Clan Corvo. They were welcomed with open arms. The Raven Raiders and Pathfinders moved in to protect the natives and begin building infrastructure and altering farming practices. Colonists moved in to guide the populace in adapting to the Corvoian way of life and language with scribes and griots recording legends, medicine, and family trees. The most difficult thing was for those who had prestige and wealth in the rigid but no longer functional caste system to accept those of lower caste as equals. However since they had been the ones to ask for integration, they begrudgingly accepted the new status quo. Once the first native clan successfully joined the Clan Corvo, it created a domino effect as weakened clan after weakened clan sought salvation through unification.

In this manner starting in 393 the present day nations of Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as well as the southern portion of Mauritania and western portion of Mali all peacefully came under the Clan Corvo Banner. This yielded an additional average yearly population increase of 100,000 people. Their neighbors saw the peaceful integration and quickly learned that raiding and ritual warfare resulted in rapid and harsh reprisals. They also saw the increased food production and healthier lifestyles. Their growing envy prepared them to eventually join Clan Corvo.

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Even Though Clan Corvo...

...seems too well-protected and militarily strong to be displaced in its areas near Rome and Alexandria, I can't help thinking that religious fanaticism will require the two Roman empires and their successors to make serious efforts to do so, since heretical versions of Christianity are hated even more than paganism, and mere political considerations tend to pale in comparison. (Besides, legend is full of heroic groups that, with their gods' help, beat long odds and conquered larger and stronger foes, so there's always someone inspired to try.)

In Senegal, the deities the Clan supplanted were local ones who could be inferred to have been defeated. Christians, on the other hand, believe in a God of All. At some point, our author's resolve to let the actual historical conflicts take place with the Corvonian enclaves unaffected (religiously, at least) may not be sustainable, with the popes in the Eastern and Western empires falling by the wayside and Corvo's bishop reigning supreme over all Christianity.


(I've had the weird notion for a long time now that Raben will eventually try to take over Mexico and get killed by Quetzalcoatl, ending the story.)


Beoca's picture

Apparently Clan Corvo's farming tips actually seem to work south of the Tropic of Cancer. This may seem like a minor detail, but crossing into the tropics caused British settlers to start having major issues. The rules change. That doesn't seem to be getting in Clan Corvo's way though, which means that their path is open to prosper and expand in sub-Saharan Africa. Cape Verde should be a relatively easy set of islands to maintain as well. Will be interesting to see if the upcoming Dark Age in Europe leads to people there being interested in joining the Clan. If they can keep their outposts in Rome and Alexandria safe - because they will definitely face some pressure from outside - then that will speak volumes regarding the continued prowess of the Raven's Raiders. Because it won't be easy.

True civilization is

Wendy Jean's picture

growing in areas that had a malformed version of civilization. So what happens if a province wants to break away and form a new clan?