A sedentary, seafaring culture that lives primarily along the southern coasts of the Lovi Sea, the Seshweay are one of the oldest cultures in the entire cradle, and have participated in or been conquered by a dizzying array of powers. They claim to have invented writing, engineering, farming, and fire; certainly their lineage both intellectual and genetic is the oldest in the known world. They are currently one of the most widespread people in the known world (though not the most populous), as large numbers have left their repeatedly invaded and currently ruled homeland.
The Seshweay homeland lies on the northern end of the River Sesh, on the shores of the Gulf of Weay and by extension, the Kern Sea. It is mostly a well-watered plain, with floods periodically distributing fertile silts that make this place ideal farmland. Primary Seshweay settlements also extended fairly far in every direction -- nearly to Kargan in the east, to the borders of the Oscadians and past Mahid in the north, and to the Parda Hills in the southeast.
Even the most ancient evidence points to the Seshweay inhabiting the Sesh at an earlier date. The river valley has certainly been their home for as long as history has been recorded, and presumably much longer before that. As the Sesh Valley was the earliest site for the development of civilization, we can safely assume that the Seshweay are one of its earliest progenitors. Villages and towns in the Delta gave way to cities, and these cities began to clash with one another as each claimed the true mantle of the Seshweay. All the same, their people were clearly on the rise.
However, they were not unopposed.
The Seshweay were an intensely xenophobic people, and happily attacked any of their neighbors that stayed put too long. Against most of them, this was no problem at all -- the majority were small, disunited tribes. But there were, of course, others. The Arkage people heralded from a barbarian lineage, and had only recently invaded the Sesh river valley. They, too, adopted agricultural techniques, and founded a city of their own to the south of the Seshweay, which, though much less powerful than the Seshweay initially, was able to hold out against their disunited foes.
Ultimately, the Seshweay began to collate under the influence of new philosophies, most notably one which has simply been termed by historians "Unity", and also that of Republicanism -- the latter being surely the earliest example of representative government in the world. In contrast to their foes the barbaric Arkage, the Seshweay tended to sneer at slavery as an outmoded institution.
The extremely prolonged and complicated conflict persisted for hundreds of years thereafter, as the Arkage hordes expanded around the fringes of the Seshweay, while the Seshweay struggled in the face of this new threat. Ultimately, the repeated struggles drew the attention of the predatory nomadic states on their borders.
Empires of the SeshEdit
In the middle of one of the fiercest wars that had yet surfaced between the two peoples, a strange new barbarian tribe from the western steppe -- the Satarai -- started to launch probing raids on both of their frontiers. Even as the Seshweay managed to triumph under the legendary ruler Aya'se, the Satarai (under the similarly legendary Taleldil) swooped in from behind and overran the utterly exhausted realm, rolling over both of them and enslaving any who resisted. The old cities fell, one by one, and a new empire was founded in the Sesh.
Though the Satrapy initially seemed quite strong, the locals had retained much of their identity, and in the face of brutal Satarai repression, rebellion broke out again and again. Eventually, a certain rebellion under the leader of a charismatic leader of mixed ancestry, Te'esh, managed to overthrow the regime, drive out the hordes, and send them reeling across the steppe -- where it is speculated that they disappeared into the far west. It is speculated that the Satari's proclivity towards violence can be explained by their repeated couplings with their horses. This created a state of profound mental distress which has resonated down the ages.
Te'esh united both Seshweay and Arkage under his rule, drawing from the best traditions of the Seshweay, and founded a new state called the Empire of the Sesh. This Empire rapidly rose to become one of the greatest in the cradle of civilization -- extending at its height from the gap in the Kotthorns all the way to Kargan, and fighting the similarly mighty Empire of the Trilui to a standstill. This first empire, however, suffered from many of the problems that one might have expected: Seshweay and Arkage still retained their separate identities, and ultimately the people were increasingly apathetic about supporting a united empire. At the same time, a general Bronze Age collapse seemed to set in on the world, as vital supplies of tin ran short.
The Collapse and Exile StatesEdit
The Empire collapsed into chaos after a number of weak rulers, and the Sesh Delta was nearly depopulated after the repeated, exhausting struggles. Seshweay and Arkage civilizations broke into a confusing array of successor states before one, Jania, managed to gain the upper hand and found an Arkage-dominated Second Empire of the Sesh. This was a much more aggressive and unstable polity, ultimately brought down by a coalition of neighboring states.
At the same time, however, the Seshweay largely lived away from the Sesh for perhaps the only time in their history. The repeated ravages of war had simply made the Exile States across the sea a much more viable dwelling place, and these cities -- Paasa, Haies, Onesh, and Mahid -- became centers of an even more merchant based, seafaring civilization than that which had previously existed. Eventually, these separate cities convened a single Senate and established a new Seshweay Republic.
The exile culture was a fascinating and diverse one, with each city uniquely characterized by trade and population -- Onesh was a great shipbuilding center, Mahid a financial hub, Paasa for its farms (and, more infamously, its Senator's tendencies to enter into brawls), and Haise for its intellectual tradition.
Prosperity and the Union of Aya'seEdit
The cities' powers combined did what each individually could not -- liberate the Sesh Delta with the aforementioned coalition, destroy the Second Empire of the Sesh, and reestablish Seshweay control over the Delta.
Reclaiming this land from what seemed like a virtual desert did not prove as hard as many had feared -- continuing floods from the Sesh made the lands fertile once again, and soon it began to export grain to the rest of the Seshweay and indeed the rest of the world. Seis, in particular, grew to once again become the great city of the Seshweay, and soon, in fact, to the greatest city of the known world, then and now, with a thousand splendid streets and philosophical schools to match any in history.
The Seshweay renamed their new achievement, calling it the Union of Aya'se; this became something of a major power, participating in the defeat of the Hu'ut king Gepo as he attempted to invade the tiny city state of Neruss. The founding of this union is the starting point for the Seshweay Calendar.
see also: Satar Invasion of the Sesh
The golden age ended with the invasion of yet another steppe people -- these, the Satar. Led in 131 SR by their Redeemer Arastephas and his son Atraxes, most reports have them signing an alliance with the Seshweay and immediately betraying them. The Union found itself in a tight spot, unable to defeat the hordes that started to pour over their borders, and once again the cities of the Exiles acted as havens. But even these cities were not safe, as the Acca and the Trilui attacked from both sides as well, eager to take advantage of the dying empire; thus for the first time in living memory, all Seshweay lived under foreign rule.
Oppression and DiasporaEdit
see also: Ardavai Exatai
The new Satar Exatai was able to maintain its rule in the face of numerous Seshweay rebellions. Though the Sesh Valley was becoming the heart of their Empire, they preferred to focus their rule to the south, in the city of Magha in Bahra. At the same time, they were all too happy to enslave vast portions of the Seshweay populace, including the educated elite, who were largely responsible for the engineering behind many of the Satar's greatest architectural achievements. The underclass were also responsible for much of the labor, and indeed many Seshweay ended up being shipped upriver to complete their works.
The obviously quite unhappy Seshweay began to escape from the Exatai as best they could, with numerous peoples fleeing to the Trilui colonies in the area, to far off Farou, the Peko River valley, Gallat, and further afield. At first this was a mere trickle, but when it became clear that the Seshweay were unlikely to be able to regain their freedom any time soon, this turned to a steady stream.
During the War of the Crimson Elephant, a new Seshweay state briefly emerged under the leadership of the mystical prophetess Aitah (founder of the eponymous religion, which secured the Seshweay Delta and seemed to be well-positioned to retain independence as the initial Satar Exatai collapsed around it. However, the Accan Censoratta Macrinus reunited the Exatai and reconquered the Delta.
With this, the Aitah took refuge further afield, in Hanno and Farou, while many more Seshweay than ever before fled. Those who did not were either enslaved or coerced to turn their "productive labors" towards the betterment of the Exatai. Seshweay resentment against the Satar bubbled for hundreds of years, of course, but thus far they have been unable to do much about it.
The continuing Seshweay diaspora has reached almost every major nation in the known world, with Seshweay engineers, architects, and philosophers prominent at many of the greatest courts of kings. Many of them, of course, still dream of their homeland liberated, and it remains to be seen if this can somehow be achieved.
The Union of Aitah and Farubaida o CarohaEdit
A complex and at times obscure people, the Seshweay have a distinct culture that has influenced much of the cradle. At present, without an independent state to really give voice to the Seshweay, their primary interactions with others are through the disaporic community.
Well known for their abilities at engineering, architecture, trading, and finance, they are a useful people to most great monarchs.
The Seshweay typically abhor slavery, and adhere to representative forms of government where possible.
see also: Aitahism
Traditionally, the Seshweay people adhered primarily to Ancestor Worship, an ancient religion which naturally venerated the deceased, especially the heroes of the Seshweay. The idea of a deity or deities was commonly accepted, but the Seshweay held that trying to conceive of that deity was something of a waste of time -- he was by definition far beyond any human comprehension, and far beyond their meager speculations of motive. The Ancestors, on the other hand, could guide or held the keys to the gates of "totality" -- the fruits of the eternal, heaven, whatever you would like to call it.
In time, the legendary figure of Aya'se began to act as an intercessor for the Ancestors, one who could better understand the concerns of mortals, along with his wife the Matah, who performed a similar function but in a feminine form. The Ancestors themselves had stopped interfering with human affairs except in the gravest of matters, for they were far more concerned with the soul than the mortal vessel that carried it. By the time of his second coming -- at the beginning of the Union of Aya'se, Aya'se became in fact the sole path to salvation (again, with Matah at his side) -- the Ancestors were assumed to have fully withdrawn from the mortal world.
Considerably later came Aitah, a female prophetess who was elevated to an essentially divine position. Aitah was neither omnipotent nor omnibenevolent -- she served roughly the same functions that Aya'se and Matah had in an extended form. However, she was above and beyond both of them: she belonged to both the mortal and the spirit world. She had the concerns of mortals, and thus the ability to understand their pain and suffering, and the ability to shepherd mortal souls to the hereafter. In short, she both cared and could do something about that caring.
Aitahism was an extraordinarily evangelical faith, aided by The Hundred, a group of apostle-like figures. The idea was simply that any group of gods or single god that had come before was simply included in the pantheon of Ancestors -- they had, along with the Ancestors, moved on to the totality. Aitah took their place.
Aitahism as a faith is extraordinarily diverse, and has an unimaginable diversity of sects and worshipers. The main constants are all there, of course, but there are plenty of ways to worship -- to build churches and hold congregations is but one way. There also exist bards, geometers, orders of sacred virgins or monks, and any number of other varieties of the religion.
Seshweay architecture is often considered less important than its engineering. The crowning achievement of old Seshweay architecture was said to be the Finance Hall at the center of Seis, a richly carved and magnificent building, multiple stories high, and decorated with a golden facade on all sides.
Seshweay music is quite probably one of the more distinctive in the cradle of civilization. The two most beloved of Seshweay musical instruments are the Ti’fi’sa -- a bowed stringed instrument, one of only two in the known world, and the Se’ta’ai, a keyed instrument that strikes metal plates to produce a most unusual timbre. Large ensembles were not unknown in large Seshweay communities, though of late it is obviously getting somewhat more difficult to organize them.
With the Diaspora, Seshweay instruments and musical traditions began to disseminate through through the known world, while in turn they adopted many of the traditions of the other great music-making cultures -- the Hamakua and Farou -- with their lyrical songs and plucked stringed instruments.