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An introduction to Toxandria

My Toxandria map emerged from a fantasy game called Khan, that I developed in my teenage years. It was essentially a strategy game, in which four players moved coloured counters (representing armies) around a map until one player achieved strategic dominance. There were four player realms within this map and each of them derived their character from historical empires or kingdoms. It was quite a complex and enjoyable game which went down well with friends and relatives of a similar age. Some years later, in my mid-twenties, I pitched it to Games Workshop to see if they wanted to publish it. I was unsuccessful in this, but they did like the map I had painted for it and commissioned me to design a map for one of their own games on the strength of it. Painting and designing my original map gave me the opportunity to think in more detail about the world represented there and to flesh out the continent that I now called Toxandria. This is not a made-up name; it was the name of a province of the Roman Empire in what is nowadays Belgium, in the 4th/5th century AD. However, its name would be quite unfamiliar to the ears of all but a tiny number of scholars, so it seemed legitimate to borrow it. I beg forgiveness from any students of the Later Roman Empire who might resent this.

The continent itself is home to four main peoples, each of whom dominate a quarter of it. The north western quarter is home to the Empire of Erenor. This realm is an amalgam of various cultures and periods in history but owes most to the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire that succeeded it. However, the level of technology prevailing here relates to the sixteenth century in our world, and so represents my idea of how that empire might have developed had it not been obliterated by its foes, during a series of devastating reverses suffered from the beginning of the thirteenth century onwards. Gunpowder is in use, and armies deploy field artillery and matchlock muskets, as well as pikemen and armoured cavalry. This empire once encompassed the whole of the continent before contraction initiated by a series of civil wars.

The north-eastern portion of the continent is occupied by the Republic of Vhanakhor. This was once limited to the island of Eudora, but during Erenor’s various travails, in previous centuries, the republic has expanded to rule a very substantial slice of what was previously imperial territory. This includes the continent’s largest trading port, Nahleen, and Erenor’s erstwhile second city, which has now become their capital. The Republic owes much to my knowledge of Carthage, deadly rivals of Rome during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. Like Carthage it is ruled by a council, like Carthage most of its wealth derives from trade, and like Carthage its inhabitants worship a cruel god who demands human sacrifice.

The south-eastern portion of the continent is occupied the militaristic kingdom of Skagaar, whose culture and practises are inspired by those of ancient Sparta. Sparta never directly ruled an area larger than about half the size of Wales (or a little smaller than Connecticut, if you need an American example). In my world the warrior elite of Skagaar have colonised and dominated a much larger realm, subjecting many of their people to serfdom of the kind that was called ‘helotry’ in Ancient Greece. Like Vhanakhor, Skagaar also carved out a large part of Erenor for itself in the wars of the past few centuries.

Finally, the south-western portion of the continent is occupied by the Kingdom of Zanyawe. This is kingdom representative of those lands which the civilised Greeks around the Mediterranean coasts used to call ‘barbarian’ (because they found their speech unintelligible-bah-bah-bah). It is loosely governed according to roughly feudal principles from its base in Kolkris south of the Great Vertebrean Alps and its way of doing things reflects the culture of a range of ancient peoples such as the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Irish and Vikings.

The Empire of Erenor’s core lands were for centuries the great central plain of Toxandria, embraced by the Alps and other lesser ranges. The map reflects their priorities and is not to scale. In particular, those regions to the south of the Alps are much larger in reality than their depiction.

I hope this is informative. I have already completed one manuscript set in Erenor, and I intend to write three further ones, each telling a story that derives from the remaining three realms. I shall provide further details as this world comes further into focus.

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