Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A Body Of Armed Ishtarians

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 9 Feb 2013.

A state is, most basically, a body of armed men. In Poul Anderson's Fire Time (London, 1977), Ishtarian civilisation has developed without a state, yet there are bodies of armed Ishtarians, the legions, with names like "the Zera Victrix". How does this work?

"Beronnen...had no government...The legions...were autonomous. They hired out to whoever would pay, on whatever terms could be mutually agreed on - though never to anyone who attacked Beronneners." (p. 118)

The legions sell ", plus valuable civilian services; a legion was by no means exclusively military." (p. 118) It begins to look as though "legion" is not a fully accurate translation.

For Beronnen and surrounding areas, it is considered a good idea to meet occasionally in order to share information, settle disputes and plan undertakings so societies of widely diverse kinds, some analogous to Terrestrial social arrangements but others not, send their leaders or representatives to an assembly that recommends but does not legislate. Minorities usually prefer conformity to isolation.

The assembly must discuss:

" much territory civilization might reasonably hope to hang onto..." (p. 114)

during the next approach of the red sun.

" 'The role of the legions in this latest chaos time is likely to be more civil than military, more engineering than fighting.' " (p. 116)

- so the speaker proposes that the assembly should request that the Zera return. As when writing, in the History of Technic Civilization, about the winged and carnivorous but intelligent Ythrians, Anderson imagines genuinely different politics for an alien species.

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