Government of the Amarr Empire
The Amarr Empire is a theocratic monarchy which can best be described as a single state made up of five vassal kingdoms, governed by princes known as the Amarr Heirs who submit to the central authority of the Amarr Emperor. The traditional three branches of government exist in a convoluted form in the Empire, as there is much mingling and crossing of powers between the different bodies.
At the top of the Imperial government sits the Amarr Emperor. In theory, the emperor's rule is unchallenged and absolute. In practice, however, he typically only has influence when personally present. Instead, he issues commands which are then carried out by a number of subordinate officials, governmental bodies, and vassals. While an emperor can make decisions that run counter to the wishes of his subordinates, he does not do so without assuming some measure of risk. An emperor must instead carefully balance the wishes of numerous rival factions against one another, keeping them all happy enough that a majority do not act to undermine his rule. The history of the Empire is spotted with ineffective emperors who, through failure to keep subordinates appeased, became relegated to little more than figureheads.
The first Amarr Emperor was Amash Akura, who founded the Amarr Empire in 16470 AD. Amash-Akura laid down many of the laws and regulations of the Empire and established the basic form of government that continues to modern times. Amash-Akura himself was an emperor as traditionally envisioned, holding tremendous sway and issuing laws and proclamations on his own volition. He formed the Council of Apostles to assist him in ruling and, as a highly religious man, merged the church with the government.
After Amash-Akura passed away, the role of emperor became less vital. Without the personal charisma and influence of Amash-Akura, the emperor became the first among equals on the Council of Apostles rather than its undisputed leader. The emperor was nominally the head of state of the Empire, but did not act on his own whims. Instead, he governed with the Council, acting more as an officiator and tiebreaker than a director. The emperor remained a figurehead for the people and all laws and decrees were issued in his name, but he rarely was able to act without the express backing of the Council as a whole.
This method of governance continued for thousands of years. It was first disrupted during the reign of Zaragram II, known among the Amarr as the Mad Emperor. Zaragram II issued numerous small decrees and effected changes in law to slowly give him more and more power. By the end of his reign, he had declared himself the worldly avatar of the divine and had become the unquestioned sole leader of the Empire. However, he was assassinated and the Council of Apostles began undoing his numerous changes.
Despite the efforts of the Apostles, enough small changes remained undetected to allow future emperors some leeway in writing and determining Imperial policy and law. This finally came to a head in 21875 AD, when Emperor Heideran V came to power and initiated the Moral Reforms. The Reforms were aimed at consolidating the power of the Council of Apostles in the hands of the emperor, raising him from a first among equals to a true head of state. Though the Council objected, Heideran V had secured the loyalty of five of the most powerful families in the Empire. Together, they defeated the Apostles and thoroughly changed the nature of the emperor.
Following the Moral Reforms, the emperor became the primary ruler of the Empire, with each of the five families who had supported him as his direct vassals and potential heirs. These families, which came to be known as the Amarr heirs, would compete with one another following the death of an emperor in an effort to name their chosen head as the new emperor. This tradition continues to the modern day.
The emperor has numerous roles within the government of the Amarr Empire. He is both sovereign of the Amarr state as well as the leader of the Amarr religion and draws authority from both secular and divine authority. The emperor has often been termed a “god-emperor” because of his connection with God, but, aside from Zaragram II, no emperor has claimed to be an actual deity or hold any special divinity. Instead, the emperor is thought of as the mouthpiece of God in the mortal world, carrying out God's rule.
Primary among the emperor's duties is that as enforcer of the Scriptures. The Scriptures, which constitute the holy laws of the Empire, are many and it is the emperor's duty to see they are enforced. Despite being the most important of an emperor's roles, it is also the role in which the emperor is most limited, as he must rely on subordinates for actual action.
In this role, the emperor issues commands to the Amarr heirs, the Imperial Chancellor, the Imperial Navy, the Ministry of Internal Order, and the other groups of the Privy Council. These groups are then expected to carry out his orders within their domains, at the risk of severe punishment should they refuse or fail.
In practice, the emperor must carefully balance the desires of his many subordinates in issuing commands. When a solitary or small number of subordinates might object, the emperor can be secure in the knowledge they will act or draw the ire of his supporters. A widely unpopular declaration, however, can be met with a unified refusal, thus undermining the emperor's authority and increasing the likelihood of future dissent. Often an emperor will play two rival groups against one another, keeping the two focused on each other and thus easily pliable for the emperor himself.
While in ancient times the emperor would involve himself in many minor matters, since the conquest of Athra, the emperor rarely involves himself directly in issues that do not affect the entire Empire. Such intercessions are considered breaches of tradition. In those rare times when the well-being of the entire Empire is threatened, the emperor's rule is seldom challenged.
The emperor also has tremendous sway over the creation and issuance of new laws within the Empire. Such decrees can be widespread and sweeping, such as Heideran's Decree which limited the ability of Holders to field space fleets and Jamyl's Emancipation which freed 9th-generation and higher Minmatar slaves, or extremely limited in scope such as the Ardishapur Decree which targeted only males born to the Ardishapur Family. As the emperor also speaks with the voice of God, he is allowed to contradict the Scriptures, either by ignoring pieces that contradict his wishes, emphasizing passages that reinforce his position, or modifying sections to strengthen his commands.
However, these alterations are not permanent, as the Theology Council maintains exclusive rights to modify Scripture directly. The emperor often works alongside them in affecting Scriptural law. The Theology Council usually attempts to sway the emperor to hewing closely to already-established Scripture, though it also acts as an expert on finding sections of Scripture that may support or cause trouble for the emperor's decrees.
Additionally, the emperor has the right to grant titles, land, and appointments to all within the Empire. In addition to naming the non-hereditary heads of the Privy Council seats such as the Court Chamberlain and Imperial Chancellor, the emperor can freely give territory to members of the nobility and royalty to rule.
Finally, the emperor has the right to collect taxes on the entire empire. Most regularly, this comes as a tithe from the heir families, who pay the Empire a percentage of the taxes they collect from their underlings, though the emperor can also mandate an empire-wide tax on all echelons of society in times of need. The emperor gives final approval on where the Empire's coffers are spent, which can assist him in gaining sway over the many factions beneath him.
Much as with his executive duties, the emperor must tread carefully in creating or eliminating laws. Should his goals be too radical, he can find a majority of his subordinates refusing to acknowledge the laws. When making appointments, balance must be maintained to avoid showing too much favoritism, lest less favored groups form a persistent opposition. Thus the emperor must often politic between the various groups, finding enough support that potential opponents will have no choice but to act or be ostracized.
In theory, the emperor is the highest judicial authority in the Empire. He is able to overturn any ruling set forth by other courts or the heirs. In times past, the emperor held an open court where he listened to the disputes of high-ranking individuals and laid forth judgment. As the empire grew, however, this practice became increasingly difficult to maintain and by the time of the Moral Reforms had died out completely.
Instead, the modern emperor levies judgments only in the most extreme cases. Typically, this involves actions which directly involve the emperor himself or concern the entirety of the Empire.
The title of emperor has never been strictly hereditary in the Empire. Amash-Akura's successor was not related by blood to the emperor, though some emperors have been succeeded by blood relations. Prior to the Moral Reforms, the emperor was selected from a serving member of the Council of Apostles by vote. Various candidates were nominated and each Apostle carried one vote. Early in the Empire's history, there were times when politicking slowed the selection process, creating gaps of years where no emperor reigned. In response, the Council decided they should be locked in seclusion until an emperor was selected. An emperor at this time required a two-thirds vote to be elected.
Following the Moral Reforms, the Council of Apostles was demolished and the Imperial Throne instead became limited to the five heir families. Rather than being selected through vote, the five chosen heirs instead compete in a number of Succession Trials to determine their worth. The trials are determined by the Succession Committee, a group comprised of top religious officials, who then call on the heirs to complete them. Over time, many different trials have been performed. Most recently, during the trials to select the successor to Heideran VII, they consisted of a designated champion and three wingmen competing in frigate duels against the other champions. This method proved somewhat unpopular with the heirs, as it took much of the process out of the hands of the heirs themselves.
The Amarr heirs are the heads of the five royal families, four of whom assisted the emperor during the Moral Reforms, who hold permanent seats on the Privy Council. The original five were the Ardishapur, Kador, Khanid, Kor-Azor, and Sarum families, though the Khanid Family was removed following the Khanid Rebellion and replaced with the Tash-Murkon. The heirs are often compared to kings or princes of their individual realms and function in much the same way the emperor does, albeit on a more limited scale.
The heirs are responsible for enforcing the Empire's laws, creating their own laws and collecting taxes, regulating trade, and acting as judiciary within their domains. In many respects, they are less fettered than the emperor, as their domains are so subdivided that organized opposition can rarely mobilize. However, in the event of widespread abuses by the heir, repercussions have been known to happen.
The Amarr heirs arose from five powerful Holder families – Ardishapur, Kador, Khanid, Kor-Azor, and Sarum – who supported Emperor Heideran V during the Moral Reforms. Following the Reforms, Heideran V created the Privy Council, a leadership group intended to replace many of the functions of the Council of Apostles. For their support, the emperor granted the five families permanent spots on the Council. In order to ensure the throne and Empire would remain stable following his death, the emperor had the Theology Council devise the Succession Trials so that one of the heirs would ascend to the throne peacefully. The Council also designed the ritual of Shathol'Syn, with the assistance of the Ardishapur heir, in an effort to keep the losing heirs from attempting to undermine the new emperor.
Following the Khanid Rebellion, Emperor Heideran VII selected the wealthy Tash-Murkon Family to replace the Khanid Family on the Privy Council. The Tash-Murkon already held extensive territory and assumed control of many systems abandoned by the Khanid.
In addition to their places on the Privy Council, the five heir families also split the majority of the Empire amongst themselves. A few core territories remain the exclusive province of the emperor (such as Amarr itself), and some of the less-developed border zones sit nebulously outside their direct control, but the vast majority of the Empire considers itself part of one of the five families' kingdoms. Three families – Kador, Kor-Azor, and Tash-Murkon – lend their names to entire regions, while the Ardishapur Family controls parts of “lower” Domain and the Ammatar Mandate and the Sarum Family controls much of “upper” Domain.
More recently, the Khanid Family has reconciled with the Empire and been presented with a new seat on the Privy Council.
Each heir is responsible for keeping the peace and enforcing the Empire's laws within his domains. The heirs have the right to arrest and charge individuals with crimes both against the Empire and the heirs themselves. To this end, each heir is allowed to maintain their own family fleet. The fleets are intended to be used specifically in patrolling against criminal elements and keeping the peace, but at times they have been used to take offensive action outside of their jurisdictions.
How the heirs deal with individual transgressions is up to the heirs themselves. Some can take rather extreme measures to ensure their laws are followed.
Because the heirs have thousands of Holders as direct subordinates, rather than the limited number the emperor must deal with, the heirs have to worry far less about offending or upsetting them. It takes massive, systemic corruption and abuses on the part of the heir to invoke a coordinated retaliation by their underlings.
In addition to enforcing the Empire's laws, heirs are able to issue their own decrees and laws which apply only to their domains. These laws can be broad or limited; for the greater good or utterly capricious. These laws are non-binding to the Empire as a whole, instead being limited in scope merely to the heir's domains. However, the heirs are usually expected to respect the authority of their fellows, such that a criminal who escapes to another heir's systems will be captured and extradited. Nonetheless, there have been incidences where the heirs have sheltered criminals from their rivals for various reasons.
The heirs also collect taxes from their Holders, usually directly. As there may be many different levels of Holders within their domains, this can sometimes lead to a double taxation on lesser Holders. Depending on the predilections of the heir, they may provide lesser tax rates to Holders who must pay a tithe to a superior Holder, or they might simply force the Holder to pay both taxes. The heirs rarely bother taxing commoners directly, instead relying on the Holders to establish and collect the taxes.
Trade regulations in the Empire are mostly left up to the heirs to decide for their own domains. The Tash-Murkon region is known as a place of free trade with relatively few tariffs and burdens, while the Kador region tends to have much more restrictive policies. Individual heirs can establish their own trade missions with other sovereign entities, as well as other regions of the Empire.
Unlike the emperor, the heirs continue to hold public courts. These courts are usually held in the royal palace on the family's capital planet, but there is nothing restricting the heir from opening court in any location.
These courts are typically held to resolve civil disputes between Holders in the heir's domain, though in rare cases high-profile criminals may be tried in front of the heir, particularly when the heir is the one who levies charges. Often, the heir makes decisions on his own feelings, though he may receive advice from a legal expert on applicable laws in the Scriptures. The heir's judgment on a matter is final and is rarely contested.
Appeals to the Theology Council or Speakers of Truth may be made, but such requests are rare. Making an appeal of an heir's decision is seen as a direct challenge to the authority of the heir. Particularly for a Holder who lives within the heir's domains, this can be an untenable position to take, as even if the appeal ends in his favor, he must live with the knowledge that he directly challenged and embarrassed his liege. Additionally, appeals are rarely heard by the Theology Council even when they are made, as the Council rarely wishes to undermine an heir in the first place.
On rare occasions, an heir may request the presence of one or more justices from the Theology Council to assist with a judgment. This serves several purposes. First, it lends any decision additional weight, ensuring that no one less than an emperor or Speaker of Truth may overrule it. Secondly, it allows the heir to pass most of the decision making process off to the justices, allowing him to shoulder less criticism for an unpopular decision.
The Holder class makes up a diverse, byzantine hierarchy that sits below the heirs. In some senses, the Holders can be thought of as simply heirs on a small scale. They possess many of the same general powers as the heirs do, though they are far more restricted and must adhere to the whims of the heirs themselves. However, the majority of Holders are much more hands-on in their approach to governance than the heirs and are personally responsible for more mundane aspects of rule.
In general, Holders can be grouped into three basic strata, though these are rough approximations and may vary greatly from region to region and even system to system. At the top, just below the heirs themselves, are Holders that maintain authority over constellations or other ad hoc groupings of solar systems. These Holders are present across the Empire, except in core systems with higher populations. In some cases, they maintain adjacent systems, though others may have, through rewards, marriage, or other political maneuvering gained authority over disparate land-granting titles.
Roughly equivalent to these Holders are those who oversee individual systems. While seen as direct vassals of the heirs, they are occasionally unofficially obligated to submit to the authority of Holders who control several systems. However, many of these Holders can shrewdly utilize their own power to put themselves on nearly-equal footing with their more-entitled brethren. Additionally, in the more populated core worlds of the Empire, a Holder who oversees a single system may be richer, more powerful, more influential, and have greater prestige than a Holder who oversees several systems in low-security space. The constant politicking and maneuvering between the two makes up much of the court intrigue within the Empire.
Below these two groups are the planetary Holders. Despite their name, these Holders are not necessarily responsible for a single planet in its entirety. Some Holders do own entire planets, others own several, some may only count a moon or other celestial as theirs, while many simply share a planet with several other Holders. These entitlements are all roughly equivalent in social prestige; a Holder may claim three planets as part of his domain, but if they are all resource-poor barrens in a dead end of Aridia, he would not be the envy of a Holder who oversaw a continent on a heavily populated temperate world in Domain.
A rare arrangement of Holders occurs in some areas, where a single planetary governor is atop a group of continental Holders, who may also sit above a group of even lesser Holders who control a small parcels of land. This tends to occur mainly in older systems which were settled before technology allowed a single group to effectively exploit a planet's resources.
The final, lowest tier of Holders are those who own a small part of land or space-based installations. They have little influence over the Imperial government as a whole and are rarely able to exert great will over their own domains. When lucky enough to hold dominance over a city or important space station, they can manage to collect taxes and institute laws and regulations, but those who simply own a large plantation or asteroid belt must instead act more similarly to wealthy businessmen than government officials.
Holders rose out of a class of warlords that predated the foundation of the Empire. These warlords constantly fought each other for dominance but rarely managed to establish lasting dynasties. Amash-Akura, the first emperor, belonged to this class. Once he managed to conquer Amarr Island, he placed many of the warlords who had willingly bent their knees into positions of leadership and established a firm noble class that became known as Holders.
Over the centuries, these Holders gradually grew in power. With the launch of the Reclaiming, the Holders were given the authority to take and own slaves. Many became prominent members of the Council of Apostles and during the conquest of Athra were given huge swaths of land to rule over. While they remained subservient to the emperor, as the borders of the Empire expanded, they were given more and more leeway to govern as they saw fit.
The expansion into space only increased this, as lags in communication and travel meant it was impractical for the Empire to attempt to govern directly. Holders instead became almost akin to the leaders of vassal states, ruling by their own whims and only nominally paying attention to the laws of the Empire itself. In an effort to combat this, the Empire began appointing Holders as overseers of other Holders, creating the complex hierarchy that continues to the present day.
Much like the heirs, the Holders are expected to keep the peace and enforce laws within their domains. However, they are far more restricted in their abilities than the heirs. Following Khanid's rebellion, Emperor Heideran VII issued an edict known as Heideran's Decree which limited the ability of Holders to field space-based defense fleets. Holders were allowed to maintain planetary and personal ground defenses, as well as orbital defense installations, but they were forced to rely on the Imperial Navy to police the space lanes. At times, Holders are able to defy the edict, particularly when allowed by permissive heirs in the absence of strong central authority, but such situations were rare.
Depending on the scope of their domains, Holders may be responsible for a vastly different array of peace-keeping. A system overseer may primarily concern himself with stopping smuggling, breaking up criminal cartels, and other similar overarching crimes, while a Holder who is in charge of a continent must concern himself far more with street-level crime such as murders and religious heresy.
The upper levels of the Holder class must deal with subservient Holders and engage in politics to keep them all relatively happy. There is much more room for upheaval among the Holders than with the heirs, so a Holder who does a poor job may find his vassals plotting to bring him to ruin and subsequently take his titles and lands for themselves. On the lower levels, the Holders deal mostly with commoners and can thus act with more impunity. Commoners have few recourses against the Holders and must typically obey their decrees without question or thought of disobedience. It is only in the most severe cases of abuse that a Holder may be punished for wronging commoners.
Holders typically have great freedoms in enacting laws within their domains, though they are often quite restricted in scope. The laws must not go against any Imperial or heir-mandated law, nor can it violate Scripture, but they are otherwise free to impose whatever conditions they wish on their vassals and the commoners. However, such laws do not apply outside the recognized domains of the Holders and the rules between two neighboring domains may be vastly different.
Indeed, a Holder in one domain may refuse to recognize things such as licenses or certifications issued by another Holder. Typically, in order to prevent chaos, neighboring Holders negotiate some form of agreement to keep things peaceful. However, there have been cases where an aggrieved Holder has used the threat of refusing to acknowledge permits issued by his neighbor from being valid within his domains as a method of receiving restitution.
Holders are the primary tax collectors of the Empire. They impose taxes directly on commoners and collect them according to their own schedule. There are few Empire-wide regulations on how local taxes are to be collected and in what amounts. Additionally, Holders may also impose tariffs and restrictions on goods imported from other areas both inside and outside of the Empire.
Holders also often hold public court, though they rarely hear the grievances of other Holders. Even in cases where a system overseer has a group of subservient Holders, such intra-Holder disputes are usually handled by the heirs themselves. Instead, Holders typically hear petitions from businessmen, merchants, and aggrieved commoners.
Some Holders also hear criminal complaints as a matter of course; others simply push these cases off to the Theology Council or Civic Court. When they do try criminals, they act as the judge, jury, and executioner, deciding on guilt and issuing a sentence at their own whims. In certain cases, this can lead to great wrangling between law enforcement and a suspect, depending on the likelihood of a Holder to issue a favorable judgment compared to one of the Imperial court systems.
Holders are under no compulsion to acknowledge the judgment of other Holders. As a matter of course, they do. However, harboring a well-connected fugitive from another Holder has become a popular method of political one-upmanship between feuding Holders.
The decisions of Holders may be appealed, either to the heirs or one of the Imperial courts. heirs rarely deign to hear disputes that do not involve Holders, however, barring exceptional circumstances. The Theology Council and Civic Court are more likely to listen, but such appeals are not made lightly. The appellant must weigh the potential consequences of openly disrespecting a Holder's authority against the potential rewards of having a decision overturned in their favor. However, the Imperial courts often have wording in their judgments specifically preventing a Holder from holding the appeal against the appellant. Whether this is enforced or not depends strongly on the influence of the Holder and the appellant.